How to Act in Court

This resource is part of the Civil Case Tip Sheets series. It was developed to help self representing litigants prepare for trial. The Tip Sheets provide general information. They do not provide legal advice. Only a lawyer can provide legal advice.

Be respectful and serious in court—make a good impression.

What to Wear
Dress neatly in clean clothes. Ask your witnesses and supporters to do the same.

What to do When You Go to Court

  • Be on time—arrive early if you can.
  • Go into the courtroom and stay there until the clerk calls your name and case.
  • Stand when you speak and when the judge speaks to you.
  • Speak calmly and clearly—use your best language, not slang.
  • When you use a document or exhibit, give it to the court clerk who will then give it to the judge or witness.

What to Avoid in Court

  • Don’t make faces or gestures—they may give the judge a bad impression. Tell your witnesses and supporters not to do this either.
  • Don’t use slang—unless you are quoting exactly what someone said.
  • Don’t argue with the judge—once the judge makes a decision, do not argue about it.
  • Don’t interrupt others.
  • Don’t talk directly to the other side or their witnesses. Instead, speak to the judge. For example, if you want to know the name of a witness, say, "Your Honour, can Ms. Lee please tell me the name of this witness?"

What to Call People in Court

  • Never use just a first name. Instead, use the following names for people in court:
  • The Judge
    • In Provincial Court: Your Honour
    • In Supreme Court: My Lord or My Lady
    • In Appeal Court: My Lord or My Lady
  • Sheriff or Deputy Sheriff: Mr. or Madam Sheriff or Deputy Sheriff
  • Court Clerk: Mr. or Madam Clerk/Registrar

All Others
Use their last name, for example, Mr. Perry

What to Do if You Don’t Understand Something
Tell the judge that you don’t understand. The judge will try to help you.

 

ADDITIONAL CIVIL CASE TIP SHEETS:

How to Prepare Your Case

How to Take Notes During Your Trial