People can represent themselves in court. However, the law and court procedures can be complicated.
In the Land and Environment Court, unrepresented litigants will be treated with courtesy and compassion. However, judges, commissioners and other court officers are restricted in the amount and type of assistance they can give to an unrepresented litigant.
Getting legal advice
Before deciding whether to represent yourself, think about whether you would benefit from being legally represented. Information is available on getting legal advice and assistance.
It is a good idea to obtain legal advice ahead of time about your case. Some lawyers can provide coaching, which is a way of helping you to help yourself.
If you are trying to decide whether to represent yourself or have already decided to do so, it may help to research information about the law and the Land and Environment Court. The Court’s website contains a lot of information that may assist you. Some important resources are explained below.
Duty Lawyer Scheme
A duty lawyer scheme has been operating in the Land and Environment Court since April 2018.
The scheme is the result of a collaboration between the EPLA, the EDO, NSW Law Society Young Lawyers Environment and Planning Committee, Macquarie University Law School and practitioners from the Court Users Group.
The scheme is aimed at assisting self-represented litigants who are respondents in Classes 4 (except judicial review), 5, 6 and 7 of the Court's jurisdiction.
Every Friday between 9 am and 12 noon a duty lawyer will be available by telephone to provide preliminary advice to self-represented litigants with a view to guiding them through the Court process and referring them to appropriate services.
Read more or contact the registry on 9113 8200 to make a booking.
Before representing yourself, you need to find out about the legislation and rules that apply to your case. You can research:
NSW legislation at the NSW Government website on NSW legislation
Commonwealth and other State and Territory legislation on the Australian Legal Information Institute (Austlii) site.
Read about the legislation covering the areas over which the Land and Environment Court has jurisdiction.
Forms and fees
You can find the forms you will need for your proceedings in the Court, and the fees you will have to pay to the Court on the forms and fees pages.
Decisions and judgments
In some circumstances, you might have to examine decisions to see how judges or commissioners have interpreted and applied the laws and rules in similar matters. For published judgments and decisions, see NSW Caselaw.
Practice, procedure and policies
The practice and procedure for proceedings in the Court varies depending on the type of proceedings. Detailed information is available on the Court’s website in the pages on types of cases.
You may also need to know about the practices and procedures specific to the Land and Environment Court, such as the practice notes issued by the Court. Information on the Court’s practice notes and policies is available at Practice and procedure.
As it can be difficult to know and understand all the laws and procedures that might apply in a particular case, it may be beneficial to consult a lawyer.
The Land and Environment Court also publishes planning principles. A planning principle is a statement, contained in a judgment of the Court, of general or specific principle stating a list of criteria, questions or steps to be considered in making particular decisions. Planning principles are intended to promote consistency in decision-making by the Court, and to assist councils and other decision-makers as well as architects, planners and developers to understand the principles which will be applied by the Court in the ordinary course.
Can I come in and have a look at a typical hearing at the Court?
Yes. All Land and Environment Court hearings are open to members of the public. It is a good idea if you are going to represent yourself, to come in and have a look at a typical hearing. This will give you a 'feel' for the court room environment and help you to better understand court processes. You should consult the daily Court Lists on the afternoon prior to your visit to determine what matters are being heard and their start times.
Can I bring a friend to support me in court?
You can have a support person sit with you in court. You need to ask permission of the commissioner or judge if you want a friend to speak on your behalf, and this is usually only at the hearing. At the Land and Environment Court, you can be represented by an agent in certain cases but you will need to seek leave from the Court.