What is it like to be in court?

Courtroom Etiquette 101

You may be wondering what it is like to be in Court; perhaps you have never been in one before; perhaps it has been quite some time; or perhaps you would just like to know the best way to comport yourself in this unique setting.

In this FAQ post, I will cover basic tips and tricks you should be aware of when attending Court.

ATTIRE

When attending Court, the general rule is that you should dress as professionally as possible given it is a formal environment. With that being said, Courts and judges understand that not everyone has the same finances or access to formal clothing. Dress as best you can within your means.

If you are proceeding to trial, you should try to wear a proper fitting suit and limit any sort of flashy colors, designs, or jewelry. The goal is to be formal and modest, so you do not call any unnecessary attention to yourself and you look prepared for the proceedings.

Your dress can depend on the type of Court appearance you are attending, so feel free to talk to your lawyer about what is best in the situation. For example, a suit would not be required for a regular docket appearance and for a sentencing where you will be brought into custody. In most situations, however, it is safe to say that a dress shirt and pants would be appropriate.

No hats are allowed.

WHAT TO BRING

Phones must be turned off and put away while you are in Court. You may see others on their phones, they are likely lawyers, and you should not do the same. Drinks and food are not permitted inside the courtroom. Do not chew gum. Court staff will enforce these rules and ask you to put such things away. It can make someone look as though they are not respecting the Court and should be avoided.

A jacket, small personal bag, your identification and any Court documents you need, along with paper and a pen are usually all that are suggested/required. Upon arrival at the courthouse in Calgary, you will be required to go through security, so limiting the amount of metal on you/your clothing would be best. Obviously, any illegal substances and weapons should not be brought or forgotten in your belongings.

It is generally recommended that children not accompany parents or guardians to the courthouse unless they are required or part of the proceedings. Children can be distracting and disruptive to the Court processes.

ADDRESSING THE COURT OR THE JUDGE

When Court begins and ends, the clerk will ask that everyone rise. You will stand up while the judge walks in and sit down once directed to by the judge.

You will sit and wait in the gallery until your matter is called. You may then go where your lawyer directs you to, or if you are self represented, you may approach the podium to address your matter. 

Only speak when asked to or directed to by your lawyer. When sitting in the gallery, you should remain silent and avoid speaking with others.

You should stand when being addressed by the judge and you should not argue with them or use any inappropriate language or profanities. The key is to be respectful. It is perfectly okay to ask a judge to clarify or repeat their question if you do not understand. That is better than simply answering anyways and giving a wrong answer.

Provincial Court judges are generally referred to as “Your Honour”. If you are in Queen’s Bench or the Court of Appeal, you may say “Sir” or “Madam” and/or “Justice”. This conveys the appropriate authority and respect to a judge.

If you must leave the Courtroom while Court is in session, it is appropriate to give a small bow to the judge as you enter/exit the door.

ALWAYS ASK FOR ASSISTANCE IF YOU ARE UNSURE

If you are ever confused about something or where to go, feel free to ask any Court staff you may see. People are generally more than willing to help, provided you are polite and patient.

There are also large monitors just past security where you can look to see what Courtroom your matter is in.

Please have patience, there are many cases that are dealt with during a typical day and it can take quite a while for your matter to be called.

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