An Introduction to Supreme Court

(transcript of video)

In this video, we talk about how to get ready on the day of your trial, what to do when you arrive, and how the courtroom is set up, including who you’ll see there.

Preparing for court

It’s important to be well-rested when you go to court. You want your mind to be clear and you want to be focused and alert. A good night’s sleep and something to eat before court can make a difference. You’ll also want to dress as professionally as possible to show respect and appear confident.

What to bring to court

What should you bring to court?

Most important are your documents.

Bring all the documents you intend to introduce at the trial in a book of documents, plus three additional copies of each document.

Also bring your trial record, trial brief, and any other documents that have been filed in your case since the Notice of Family Claim.

For more information about these documents, see our self-help guide How to schedule and prepare for your Supreme Court trial and watch our video on using documents at trial.

You may want to take notes during the trial, so bring a pen or pencil and a notepad. A snack is also a good idea, since you never know how long your day in court will actually be.

Arriving at court

Before your trial date, call ahead to confirm your trial time and the courthouse opening hours.

It’s a good idea to arrive at least 15 minutes before your trial is scheduled to begin.

In most courthouses, your courtroom number will be listed on a bulletin board or sheet of paper posted on the wall. If you’re not sure where to find this, ask at the registry.

The courtroom

Here’s what a typical BC Supreme Court courtroom used for family trials looks like.

Let’s have a look at some areas of the courtroom, such as where participants will sit.

After you pass through the gallery where the general public can sit and watch, you see two tables, one to your left and one to your right. These tables are for lawyers who want to watch the trial. See the long table just in front of these, facing the judge? This is where you and the other party sit, at the same table, one on each side of the lectern. The lectern is the box with the microphone on top of it, where you’ll stand anytime you speak, except when giving testimony in the witness box. For example, you’ll stand at the lectern to give your opening and closing statements, and to cross-examine the other party. The claimant will usually sit on whichever side the witness box is on. In the courtroom you see here, the witness box is on the right, so the claimant would sit on the right side of the counsel table and the respondent would sit on the left. In some courtrooms, the positions of the witness box and the clerk will be reversed.

The witness box is where you’ll go to give your testimony and where any other witnesses will sit to give theirs. It’s on one side of the courtroom, between the parties and the judge.

The court clerk also sits between the parties and the judge, at a computer at the opposite end from the witness box. The court clerk is the person you pass documents to when you want either a witness or the judge to see them. They also digitally record the court proceedings.

The judge sits at the long, high table at the very front of the courtroom. Be sure to stand up whenever you speak to the judge and whenever the judge stands up. If the judge is woman, call her “My Lady.” If the judge is a man, call him “My Lord.”

Another person you’ll see in the courtroom is the sheriff, who’s there to page witnesses and keep the courtroom safe. The sheriff doesn’t stand in any particular spot. They might stand at the back of the courtroom, or up near the clerk. Sometimes, the sheriff might not even be in the courtroom.

Remember that the courtroom is open to the public, so you may see people walking in and out. Remember too that everything said in a courtroom is recorded.

Explore more resources for people who are representing themselves in Supreme Court on our family law website.

Explore more resources at www.familylaw.lss.bc.ca

Jointly developed by the Legal Services Society and the People's Law School, with generous funding from the Law Foundation of BC

Filmed and produced by Michael Augustine
Narrated by Winnifred Assmann
Written by Kate Hunt
Legally reviewed by Erin Shaw and Justice Victoria Gray
Courtroom photography by Dan Daulby
Image selection and titles by Brian Goncalves

Special thanks to:
Terresa Augustine
The Law Courts -- Vancouver

© Legal Services Society, BC, 2015