What to do, say and wear in court
Going to court for the first time may be confusing. You should consider:
What to do in court
There are certain things you need to do:
- When you arrive at court
- When entering the courtroom
- When the court takes a break
When you arrive at court
When you arrive at court you will usually find the court list on a wall or notice board. You should check the list and make a note of what number your case is in the list, and which courtroom you need to go to.
For information about how to find your courtroom, you should watch the video below.
You can also read a
transcript of this video (36 kb).
This video is available with the audio description.
If you see a court officer you can let them know you have arrived and that you don't have a lawyer.
Although you have been told to go to court at a certain time, for example 9:30am, this does not mean your case will be heard at that time. There are often many cases scheduled on the same day and you have to wait until your name is called.
You can take a seat in the courtroom or if the courtroom is full you can wait outside. Make sure you do not leave the court building and are close enough to the courtroom to hear the court officer call your name. If you leave, or are not there when you are called, your case can be dealt with in your absence.
When entering the courtroom
Before you go into the courtroom you should:
- turn off your mobile phone or pager
- remove your hat and sunglasses
- stop eating, drinking or chewing gum.
When you go into the courtroom you should:
- bow your head facing the judge, magistrate, registrar or assessor as soon as you walk in
- take a seat in the back of the courtroom
- be quiet while other cases are being dealt with.
You are not allowed to use a mobile phone or record anything in the courtroom but you can take notes during the hearing of your case.
When your case is called, you need to move to the table, called the 'bar table', which faces the judge, magistrate, registrar or assessor. Bring all of your documents to the table with you. You can place your files and documents on the bar table, but it's best to put your bags and coats on the floor next to you.
When the court takes a break
The magistrate or assessor may close the court for morning tea, usually around 11:30am, or for lunch, usually from 1:00pm to 2:00pm. You will have to leave the courtroom during these breaks. You can check with the court officer or the registry what time the courtroom will reopen.
It is possible that you could be at the court for a few hours, and sometimes for most of the day, so you should make arrangements with your work or childcare, if necessary.
What to say
When you speak in court it is important you know who you are talking to. When you speak in court:
- a Registrar is called 'Registrar'
- a Magistrate or Judge is called 'Your Honour'
- an Assessor is called 'Sir' or 'Madam'.
When your case is called, you need to move to the bar table. You should stand up when speaking to the Registrar, Magistrate, Judge or Assessor, and when they are speaking to you. Sometimes they will give you permission to sit down, but otherwise you should stand at the bar table.
The first thing you need to say is your name and your role in the case. For example: "My name is Mr/Ms/Mrs/Miss X and I am the plaintiff". Your role, for example, plaintiff, applicant or defendant, may be written near your name on the court documents.
The microphones at the bar table do not make your voice louder. They are used to record each case. You will need to speak loudly enough for the officer on the bench to hear you.
When the Judge, Magistrate, Registrar or Assessor is hearing your case, make sure that you listen to what is being said and don't interrupt. You will be given the chance to speak so don't try to talk over the other person.
Always use polite and respectful language when speaking in the court. You should ask for things to be repeated or explained if you can't hear or don't understand what has been said.
When the other party is speaking, you should sit down at the bar table.
What to wear
Make sure you are dressed neatly. You do not need to wear a suit but you should not wear singlets, thongs, untidy, revealing or ripped clothing.