When you step into a courtroom, it can easily feel like you are stepping into another world. There is a whole new language that goes with the territory as well as an entire practice of etiquette that many are not familiar with. Here are 5 easy steps to help you master the basics of courtroom etiquette.

  1. Present yourself well: the courtroom is a formal place, so dress appropriately. Offensively worded or imaged clothing will not be appreciated. Similarly, torn or revealing clothing is also not appropriate.  Apart from what you wear, make eye contact with the Judge and speak clearly and at an appropriate volume (you don’t want to be mistaken as yelling, but neither do you want to talk so quietly that you are constantly repeating yourselves).
  1. Communication: in keeping with the theme of formality, you should avoid using profane or offensive language. It will discredit your testimony greatly if you cannot mind your manners.  Be polite and respectful to all who are in the room. Remember your temper when you address the Judge – they are not the one with whom you have an issue. You are asking for THEIR assistance in resolving your matter.
  1. Use the proper forms of address: when addressing the bench. In Provincial Court, you should refer to the Judicial Justice (traffic court, payment and bail hearings) as ‘your worship’ and the Judge as ‘Your Honour’.  In Supreme Court or the BC Court of Appeal, you should refer to the Judge as ‘Madam/Mister Justice’. In 2021, the Court decided to discard the terms “My Lord and My Lady, so this takes some of the pressure off of a litigant appearing in Court as to remembering which form of address to use.
  1. Don’t forget the other officials: Though they may not have power to make a ruling over your case, court clerks and sheriffs must not be forgotten. A sheriff may be referred to as ‘Madam/Mister Sheriff or Deputy Sheriff’ and the court clerk as ‘Madam/Mister Clerk or Court Clerk’.
  1. Keep your distractions away: Leave food and drinks outside of the courtroom, avoid chewing gum as it can distract others in the room and turn your cell phone off or on silent before you step inside.

Consider this: How would you behave or present yourself in a religious service or a job interview? From that viewpoint, you can govern yourself accordingly. The above points reflect your credibility and show the Court that you respect the legal process.

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