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Top 5 Things Self Represented Litigants Should Know About Conduct in the Court Room

Top 5 Things Self Represented Litigants Should Know About Conduct in the Court Room

In the courtroom, there are certain rules of conduct. Here are the top 5 things you should remember:

1. How to address people and the Court

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

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

2. Stand when addressing the Court

 Please stand whenever you wish to speak while court is in session. You should address your comments to the judge and not to the opposing party. Do not interrupt when the trial 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 on you.

3. Role of the Court registrar

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

4. Hours of Sitting
Court is in session from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. There is generally a break for lunch at 1 p.m. until 2:15 p.m. There will be a break in the morning and if needed, in the afternoon. These hours may change, depending on the discretion of the trial judge. Please be sure to come to court on time in the morning and after each break.

5. Note-taking

You are encouraged to take notes about everything that takes place in the courtroom. You will probably prepare your cross-examination of a witness and your closing submissions on the basis of your notes.

Remember if you cannot hear what a witness, the opposing party, counsel, or the trial judge says, you should let the trial judge know.  Also remember that if you need further assistance regarding any other matter relevant to the conduct of the trial, you may ask the trial judge. The trial judge will attempt to assist you to the extent that such assistance does not compromise trial fairness or the appearance of impartiality.

Remember is is never a good idea to represent yourself.  Try to get some legal advice and assistance before chosing to conduct your own trial.

This blog was based in part on a hand out some Ontario Superior Court Judges provide to self represented litigants at the commencement of thier trials.