AFTER THE FILING

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

THE RESPONDENT REPLIES TO THE APPLICATION

Photo of Respondent's sign in UN Dispute Tribunal courtroom in New York.
Respondent's sign in UNDT courtroom in New York.

After the Applicant files their application with the UNDT, the next step, usually, is that the Respondent submits a written reply to the application to the UNDT. within 30 calendar days after receipt of the application.

For cases before the UNDT, the “Respondent” is normally the Secretary-General of the United Nations or the Head of the agency, fund or programme (the Administration) against which a staff member (or former staff member or affected dependent of a staff member) has submitted an application to the UNDT contesting a decision.

The sequence leading up to the Respondent’s reply is as follows:

  • The UNDT Registry receives the application from the applicant, and a judge is assigned to the case by the UNDT Registry.
  • The UNDT Registry transmits a copy of the application to the Respondent and to any other party the judge considers appropriate.
  • After receiving the application, the Respondent (Administration) files a written reply to the application within the time limits listed in the first paragraph above).

When the UNDT Registry receives the reply to the application from the Respondent, the Registrar transmits a copy of the reply to the Applicant.

SUSPENSION OF ACTION APPLICATIONS

If an application for suspension of action has been filed with UNDT, the Dispute Tribunal’s procedures are expedited and UNDT will issue a decision on the application for suspension of action within five working days (at the most).

THE JUDGE DECIDES HOW TO PROCEED

After the application is filed by the Applicant, and the Respondent has replied to the application, the Judge who has been assigned to the case decides how to proceed. There are several ways the judge may decide to proceed.

The Judge may order the parties to meet to discuss if the matter can be mediated and settled, whether a hearing on the merits of the case is necessary, and whether agreement can be reached on certain factual and legal issues that are in contention.

The Judge may instruct that further written submissions are necessary.

The Judge may decide to hold a case management discussion to give directions to the parties for further preparation or management of the case.

A hearing on the merits of the case may then be held, at which time the parties will present the substance of their case and witnesses may be called.

THE COURTROOM HEARING

A UNDT hearing is held in an actual courtroom, fitted out with microphones, speakers and other communication technology. There are three such courtrooms: one in New York, one in Geneva, and one in Nairobi.

THE HEARING ON THE MERITS

The hearing which decides a UNDT case and at which arguments are made and evidence is presented by both parties is known as a “hearing on the merits”. The geographical location of the Registry which has been assigned the case by UNDT determines which courtroom is used for the hearing (for more on how cases are assigned, see Where Cases Are Assigned in What You Should Know).

THE JUDGE

The hearing is presided over by one judge, (unless a panel of three judges has been specially convened). The judge sits at the front of the courtroom, facing the two parties to the dispute who sit in separate areas facing the judge.

THE TWO PARTIES

The two parties to the dispute are:

  • The Applicant (who filed the application, and is there to contest an administrative decision), and their counsel (unless the Applicant is self-represented)
  • And The Respondent (Administration) who is there to defend the administrative decision which is the subject of the dispute.

On behalf of the respective Organization, the Secretary-General of the United Nations or the head of the relevant fund, programme or agency is generally the Respondent named in the case. For the purposes of the hearing on the merits, a staff member(s) from the Administration defends the merits of the administrative decision as the Respondent.

RULES OF CONDUCT AND ETIQUETTE

The UNDT courts have Rules of Conduct and Rules of Etiquette. These courtroom behaviors and formalities that need to be respected and observed when appearing before the UNDT by both parties to the dispute, and the counsel for both, whether for a case management discussion or a hearing.

RECORDING OF HEARINGS

A UNDT hearing on the merits is recorded in audio form.

WITNESSES AND OBSERVERS

Often, there are witnesses at the hearing. Sometimes, there are not. Any witnesses called to speak do so in a separate area facing the judge. There is also an area in the back of the courtroom where visitors to the courtroom can observe the proceedings.

FROM ARGUMENT TO DECISION

During the hearing on the merits, arguments are made by both sides, either in person in the courtroom, or remotely, and evidence is presented by both sides. If there are witnesses, they speak in the courtroom (unless for practical reasons they can only be heard remotely). Some time after court proceedings conclude, the Judge generally decides on the case. (To know what types of decision a Judge might make, see the Judge’s Decision.) A UNDT case can go to mediation at any point, including during case proceedings, or during a hearing on the merits (see Practice Direction No. 3 on Mediation).

HEARINGS AND CASE PROCEEDINGS - IN DETAIL

To fully understand in detail all aspects of how a UNDT hearing and the case proceedings before the hearing work the Applicant should fully review the UNDT Rules of Procedure. (See also What You Should Read)

THE UNDT REGISTRY

The UNDT Registry schedules and helps to manage the UNDT hearing, ensures that documents and evidence is submitted properly, that witnesses are notified they are being called, and tells them where and on which date they should appear. The Registry administers all aspects of UNDT Proceedings for the UNDT, from the earliest stages when a case is generated, until a decision is made on the case and the parties are notified of the decision.

ACCESS TO RECORDS BY BOTH PARTIES
See Practice Direction No. 6 on Records of the Dispute Tribunal for information on access to the court records of the case while the case is being considered by the UNDT.

THE JUDGE'S DECISION

After the UNDT case concludes, the judge assigned to the case issues a decision. The decision can be in the form of a judgment or order.

The most common judgment is that:

  • The administrative decision being contested was made correctly.
  • OR
  • The administrative decision being contested was not made correctly.

NOTIFICATION OF THE DECISION TO BOTH PARTIES

Once the decision is made, the two parties then receive notification of the decision, sent from the account of one of the UNDT’s three Registries (in New York, Geneva and Nairobi).

The email, and any communication from the Registry that may be attached to it, constitutes the notification form to a party.