Court etiquette

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This fact sheet provides basic information on what to expect and how to behave when you go to court.

Entering the court

Make sure you arrive before your scheduled hearing time. If the judge is already in the court when you enter, stop and nod respectfully to the judge from the doorway of the court before proceeding to your seat.

If you are representing yourself, you should sit at the table in the centre of the courtroom facing the judge. This table is called the bar table. If the other party in your case is represented by a lawyer, you will usually sit on the left hand side of the bar table (as you walk into the court). If both parties do not have lawyers and you are the person bringing the legal action you should sit on the right. If you are defending the legal action you should sit on the left.

Remember that there may be other matters being heard the same day as yours, and you should wait for your matter to be called before moving to the bar table. While you are waiting, you can sit in the public seating area at the back of the court room.

Court layout

There will often be a number of court officials in the courtroom. For more information about who they are and where they sit, take a virtual tour:

Speaking to the judge

You must stand when the judge enters the courtroom.

You must also stand when the judge is speaking to you, or when you are speaking. If you are unable to stand because of a disability, you should explain this to the court (unless, of course, your disability is self-evident). At all other times you should remain seated and quiet. You address a judge as 'your Honour' and you should speak to them in a courteous manner. The judge may ask you questions at any point during the hearing - you should respond to these questions accurately, and as briefly, as possible.

You should not attempt to contact the judge directly at any stage outside of court. Any discussions you wish to have with the judge must occur in the courtroom.

How to dress

Court proceedings are formal occasions. While it is not strictly necessary to wear a suit, you should dress as neatly as you possibly can. Thongs and singlets must not be worn.

You should remove your sunglasses and/or hat before entering the court.

General rules

Going to court can sometimes be a frustrating process. However, it is important to be polite and courteous to court staff and the other party at all times.

Turn off your mobile phone. Do not simply switch it to silent

Note also that food and drink are not permitted inside the courtroom. There will generally be a jug of water provided for parties at the bar table.

Tape recorders and cameras may not be used in the court. You may be asked to remove any such items from the courtroom.

Accessibility

The courts are all wheel chair accessible. A number of other provisions have also been made to make access easier for persons with disabilities. Should you have any queries you should contact the registry of the court you are going to.

If you come from a non-English speaking background, you may be allowed to have a translator in the court room with you. This should be arranged before the hearing, not on the day. A list of accredited translators is available through the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters Ltd. You should be aware that these translators are likely to charge a fee. You should also contact the registry of the court you are going to because they might be able to help you to organise an interpreter.

Go along and observe

The best way to determine how you should behave in a court room is to go along and watch a hearing or trial prior to the commencement of your own proceedings.

Most court hearings are open to members of the public. You can find a list of the hearings happening each day on the website of the court hearing your case. When watching another trial or hearing you should sit in the public gallery located at the back of the court room. You should still follow the same rules of etiquette as outlined above.

For more detailed information about going to court, please see:

Contact us

The information in this resource is for general information purposes only. If you would like help with a legal problem, you may be eligible for assistance from a LawRight service or clinic.


For more information about the help available, and the process for applying for help, please contact LawRight by:

Email: admin@lawright.org.au
Telephone: 07 3846 6317
Fax: 07 3846 6311
Postal address: LawRight, PO Box 3631, South Brisbane, Qld 4101
Website: LawRight

LawRight does not provide legal advice over the phone.