Courtroom Conduct: Things Self-Represented Litigants Should Know

As a self-represented party, you will have to represent yourself at trial.  We can set out some practical and procedural matters with respect to courtroom conduct and the trial process however we cannot possibly cover all of the things you need to know about conducting a trial in this overview.  In providing you with this information, we do not assume any responsibility to provide you with legal advice through this overview and it cannot even begin to replace the advice and assistance that would be available to you if you had legal counsel.

  1. How to Address People and the Court:

When you address the court, you should refer to the judge as “Your Honour” and stand whenever you are speaking to the judge or when the judge enters or leaves the courtroom.

When you are speaking to any witness, you should address them as “Mr.”, “Ms.”, “Dr.” or whatever is appropriate. Do not use their first name.

  1. Stand when Addressing the Court:

Please ensure you stand whenever you wish to speak while court is in session and you should address your comments to the judge and not to the opposing party.

Do not interrupt when the judge or someone else is speaking, only one person will be allowed to speak at a time.  You will have an opportunity to respond if an issue arises that impacts you.

  1. Note-taking

Note-taking is encouraged as you will probably want to prepare any cross-examination of a witness and your closing submissions on the basis of your notes.

If you cannot hear what was said, whether it be from a witness, the opposing party, counsel or the trial judge, you should let the judge know.  Also remember that if you need assistance regarding any other matter relevant to the conduct of the trial, you may ask the judge.

The judge will attempt to assist you to the extent that such assistance does not compromise trial fairness or the appearance of impartiality.  However, try to seek some legal advice before choosing to conduct your own trial and keep in mind that it is never a good idea to represent yourself.

  1. Role of the Court Registrar:

The court registrar is responsible for tracking all documents that have been marked as “exhibits” – Should you wish to receive a copy of an exhibit, please ask the registrar.

  1. Hours of Sitting:

Court is in session from 9:30am until 4:30pm.  There is generally a break from 1:00pm for lunch and typically lasts until 2:15pm.  If needed, there is a break in the morning and sometimes one in the afternoon.  The hours may change, depending on the discretion of the judge, but please be sure to come to court on time in the morning and after each break.