A notice of hearing is a legal document used in U.S. courts to inform individuals that the government is pursuing a an action against them. It is different than a notice of trial, which is used when individual parties are suing each other. These documents are reserved for actions in which the government is seeking redress from individuals. They are most commonly used at the local level, frequently in administrative hearing, bankruptcy, and removal proceedings.
The specifics of what a notice of hearing must contain and how this information must be presented varies by jurisdiction. United States law allows state governments to set their own court rules. Wherever it is filed, however, the document usually contains certain core elements.
First, the notice sets forth which court is conducting the hearing. It names the individual against whom the action is taken, and sets out the specific allegations that will be examined during the hearing. Any statutes, laws, or policies that are alleged to have been broken must usually be cited. If any of this information changes — if the hearing is rescheduled, for instance, or if the government revises its charges against the individual — an amended notice of hearing is sent that clearly identifies the corrections and changes.
Notices must also set out the date of the hearing, as well as its time and location. Whichever judge has been assigned to conduct the hearing is typically named, and a phone number that the respondent can contact with questions is usually also provided. Most states require a clause informing respondents that they are allowed to seek legal representation.
Lawyers often represent clients in hearings, but individuals can almost always represent themselves as well. Courts do not generally provide lawyers to respondents. Public defenders are usually only available in criminal trials, not in administrative hearings. Respondents who cannot afford to hire an attorney may seek pro bono services offered by a legal aid society or legal aid group. This is particularly recommended in removal hearings, which involve deportation matters, and bankruptcy proceedings, which often have long-lasting financial ramifications.
Each court has rules about how a notice of hearing must be served on a respondent, and delivery rules are often different for different kinds of notices. A notice of hearing in removal proceedings, for instance, must usually be personally delivered. Other notices can sometimes be mailed or simply dropped off at a person’s residence. It is very important that respondents receive their notices in a timely way. Failing to appear at an ordered hearing usually carries steep consequences.
The term itself can also relate to any situation in which a governing or rule-making authority wishes to inform the public of an upcoming hearing. Hearings in this context can be on a number of different topics, from land use proposals to school board rules. A notice of hearing of application is one example. This sort of hearing is held to evaluate and allow public comment on some application that has been submitted, often pertaining to liquor licenses, significant building modifications, or other controversial community topics.
Community hearings are usually very different from court hearings. For one thing, there is no judge. Community leaders or board members usually act as the decision makers. Hearings of this type are not usually designed to evaluate violations, either. Most of the time, they are organized to consider amendments, or to inform the public about proposed new rules.
A notice of hearing in a community setting is usually posted in the local newspaper or advertised with fliers and signs. Many hearings not only allow the public to attend but also permit audience members to ask questions and take part in the proceedings. Spectators are never allowed to participate in court.