Preparing to attend Supreme Court
To get ready to attend your Supreme Court trial:
- find out the court's opening hours,
- watch other trials,
- know the courtroom setup,
- know what to bring,
- know what to wear,
- book an interpreter (if needed), and
- arrange for disability accommodation (if needed).
Find out the opening hours
Trials are usually scheduled from 10:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., and 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. These hours may change. Generally, the courthouse will be open at least an hour before the first scheduled proceeding. Contact the courthouse where your trial will be held to find out the opening hours.
Watch other trials
A great way to prepare is to watch a family court trial. This will give you a concrete idea of what to expect. Family court is open to the public. To find out when trials will take place, phone the family court registry or ask at the registry counter.
In some locations, a sheriff may ask you why you want to watch. Tell the sheriff that you have a case coming up and want to watch the procedure. You can sit and watch trials for as long as you like.
Tip: If possible, attend a trial that's similar to your own so you can see how the process works. For example, if you have a witness in your case, attend a trial where there are witnesses. This will help you get a better idea about how to put your witnesses on the stand, how to ask questions, and how to object.
Know the courtroom setup
It will help to already know how the courtroom will be set up and what people will be there. Here's a diagram of the interior of most family courts in BC:
The people who work in the courtroom include:
- the judge, who hears the case and makes orders;
- the court clerk, who:
- keeps the court files,
- receives exhibits from witnesses, and
- operates the tape recorder that records all evidence given at trial;
- the court reporter; and
- the sheriff, who pages witnesses who aren't in the courtroom and makes sure the courtroom stays safe.
The courtroom is open to the public, so you may see people walking in and out. Also, be aware that everything said is recorded.
Watch the following video to see what the inside of a typical courtroom looks like and what you need to know about going to court.
Know what to bring
Bring a pen/pencil and paper for taking notes. You may also want to pack food to eat during breaks, as you never know how long a day in court will be.
Know what to wear
When attending court, dress as neatly and professionally as possible. Stay away from bright colours and hats. If possible, avoid wearing jeans. Here are some suggestions for what to wear:
- Men — If you own a suit and tie, that would be a good choice. Or, try to find dress pants, a dress shirt, dark socks, and clean shoes.
- Women — Wear dress pants or a skirt, a blouse, and a cardigan or (if possible) business-style jacket.
You may feel that you're treated with more respect if you try to dress business casual. But it's up to you. If this will make you uncomfortable, don't dress this way.
Book an interpreter
If you or one of your witnesses requires an interpreter, let the court registry know well before your hearing.
The Attorney General's Court Services Branch provides:
- spoken language interpreters for people who don't speak English, and
- sign language interpreters or real-time captioning for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
These services are free. For more information, see Court Interpreters on the Attorney General website.
Arrange for disability accommodation
Some courthouses have accessibility coordinators for people with disabilities. If you or someone participating in your trial needs accessible court services, contact the accessibility coordinator at the courthouse. Do this as far in advance as possible.
More information about court accessibility in BC can be found online on your courthouse website.
This material was adapted, with permission, from the National Self-represented Litigants Project's publication, Coping with the courtroom: Essential tips and information for self-represented litigants.
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