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Hearing in the District Court

What is the procedure in a civil case in the District Court?

A hearing in a civil case is divided into a preliminary hearing and a main hearing. The preliminary hearing is divided into two parts, a written part and an oral part. When the preliminary hearing has been completed, the District Court summons the parties, witnesses and other persons who are to be heard to what is known as a main hearing.

Civil actions are heard by either one or three legally qualified judges. If the case involves a maximum of half a base amount it will be heard by just one judge. In a main hearing involving family matters, one legally qualified judge and three lay judges will preside. Lay judges are not trained lawyers and they have completely different professions. Their task is, together with the legally qualified judge, to apply the rule of law to the case in question.

On the page 'Who's who?' you can read more about the people who are involved in the hearing.

What happens in the courtroom?

The presiding judge checks who is present

The District Court summons the parties to the courtroom by means of a public address system. Everyone then enters the courtroom.

The presiding judge checks to see whether everyone has arrived and whether there are any impediments to the hearing taking place. If someone is missing this could result in the hearing being postponed. If this happens, everyone will be summoned to a new hearing at a later date.

In most cases the witnesses are not permitted to be present in the courtroom until they are to be heard. They are therefore often called later. The reason why they are not permitted to be present throughout the whole hearing is that they could be influenced by what others say in the court.

The complainant (the person who has requested something in the summons application) presents his/her claims

The presiding judge hands over to the person who has requested that the dispute be resolved by the District Court (complainant) who then has the opportunity to present what he or she is requesting. This is known as a presentation of claim.

The respondent (counterparty) provides his/her view of the matter

The counterparty then has the opportunity to present the changes he or she agrees to and what he or she opposes.

The parties present the facts

The parties have the opportunity to present the background to the dispute and state the facts on which they are relying. This is known as a presentation of the facts.

The parties also go through written evidence in conjunction with their presentation of the facts.

Examination of the parties

If the parties have adduced an examination of themselves they are heard after the presentation of the facts.

A person who is heard under oath and knowingly does not speak the truth or fails to say what he or she knows, could be found guilty of making a false statement.

Examination of witnesses

The witnesses are called one at a time and are examined.
A person called as a witness first takes an oath. The presiding judge reads out the oath and the witness repeats.

Any person who knowingly does not speak the truth under oath or fails to say what he or she knows, could be found guilty of perjury.

In certain situations the Court of Appeal can examine witnesses by telephone.

The parties conclude their case

When all the evidence has been presented the parties conclude their case. They describe what they feel has been proven and how they feel the court should rule. These are called final submissions or closing speeches.


The party that loses a civil dispute shall in the majority of cases pay the counterparty's legal costs. However, in cases involving up to a maximum of half a base amount the opportunity to receive payment is limited. In family cases the parties are normally responsible for their own costs.

A party that is seeking compensation for its legal costs must make a special request before the main hearing is concluded. If the parties are represented by counsel it is counsel that makes this submission in the form of a bill of costs.

A person who has been summoned as a witness to the District Court is entitled to receive payment for his/her travel expenses and for loss of income. The payment shall be made by the party who has requested the examination if he/she does not have legal aid.

If the party has legal aid, payment for witnesses and the cost of counsel are met from public funds. Legal aid is a social protective legislation designed to help a person who is unable to obtain legal assistance in any other way. Read more about legal aid at The Legal Aid Authority website.


Following the hearing the judges discuss the case and decide how they will rule. This is known as deliberation. Each judge has one vote. No external party is entitled to be present during deliberation and what is said is confidential, even after the court has pronounced judgment.

The judgment is based purely on what has emerged during the main hearing and may only refer to what the parties have requested. In cases involving family matters, such as custody of children, the court ensures that the matter is examined sufficiently and their ruling in the case is based on what is in the best interests of the child.

Compensation to parties and witnesses

The party who loses a contentious case will in most cases have to pay the other party's litigation costs. However, in cases relating to at most a half base amount, the possibility of getting compensation is limited. In cases relating to the family, each party normally bears her/his own costs.

A party who wishes to obtain compensation for her/his litigation costs must make a special request before the main hearing is concluded.

A party who has been give notice to attend as a witness before the district court is entitled to get compensation for her/his costs for travel and lost income from work.  The compensation should be paid by the party who has requested the questioning, if he/she does not have legal aid or financial assistance. Otherwise the compensation will be paid from public funds.

Judgment of the District Court

For the most part the judgment is notified at a later date. The presiding judge then states on which date and at what time the judgment will be notified. In some cases the District Court pronounces judgment immediately after deliberation.

The court always sends the judgment by post to the parties.

Practical information

The District Court tries to plan the proceedings in such a way that no one needs to wait unnecessarily. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to avoid waiting and delays occur from time to time.

There is a public address system which the judges use when they summon the parties and witnesses to the courtroom. You can sit in one of the waiting rooms or in the corridor outside. The District Court can often also arrange for you to wait in another room. Contact the caretaker/security staff if you wish to do so.

Inside the courtroom it is possible for the parties and the witnesses to plug a headset into a socket in the table in order to hear better what is being said in the courtroom. Tell the presiding judge if you have problems hearing what is being said.

Senast ändrad: 2019-01-07

Compensation to parties and witnesses

Judgment of the District Court

Practical information

What is a main hearing?

What we in everyday language refer to as a 'trial' is known at court as a main hearing. This means that the court summons the parties to a meeting.

What is preparation?

Legal proceedings in contentious cases are divided into a preparation and main hearing. During a preparation, the court will investigate what the dispute relates to. Read more about what happens during the preparation.