What to Expect at Court

Court is a Daunting Place;
Here’s What You Can Expect.

Whether you have been to Court multiple times or it is your first time in Court, your initial reaction may be stress. You will have a thousand questions running through your mind. What can I expect? Who will be there? What will my lawyer say? What will the Judge say? What will the outcome be? No matter how many times we go to Court, one thing is certain: always be prepared for the unexpected.

While there are many variables at play when you go to Court, there are some aspects you can be certain of. This article will give you a sense of what to expect at court.

WHAT DO I WEAR?

One of the most common questions we receive is, “What do I wear to Court”? Our response is “Look good. Feel good.” Wear something comfortable but professional. A good rule is to wear what you might wear to church or a job interview. You need not wear formal business attire, but you do not want to wear jeans and a hoodie. You want to show respect for the Court by carefully choosing what to wear.

ARRIVING AT THE COURTHOUSE

Most Court proceedings in Calgary take place at the Calgary Courts Centre, located at 601 – 5th Street SW, Calgary, Alberta. Parking is available at the Courthouse parkade (access on 6th Avenue SW) or the Holt Renfrew parkade (access on 8th Avenue SW), or you may wish to take the C-Train or other means of public transit.

Once you arrive at the Courthouse, you will proceed through airport-like security. There is one line for the public and one line for the police and lawyers. Proceed through the public’s line. Any sharp objects, including forks, will be confiscated by security.

Line-ups through security can be very long on jury-selection days. As such, you may wish to give yourself an extra 30 minutes in order to proceed through security before Court begins.

FINDING YOUR COURTROOM

Your lawyer will tell you what date and time your Court appearance will be. As Courtrooms are not assigned in advance, we cannot tell you which room you will be in. We may be able to tell you what floor: Queen’s Bench matters are usually heard on the 10th floor and Provincial Court matters are usually heard on the 12th floor.

To find your Courtroom number, look at the series of computer screens on the wall past security. Find your name or the name of the opposing party, and proceed to the designated Courtroom. For example, 1001 means Courtroom 1001 which is located on the 10th floor.

There are two banks of elevators. The first bank, closest to security, will take you to Floors 1 to 12. The second bank, will take you to Floors 1, and 12 to 24.

THE BEGINNING OF COURT

You should arrive at least 10 minutes before Court begins. We will meet you outside of the Courtroom to discuss any last minute items. Once we go into the Courtroom, take off your hat if you are wearing one, and turn off your cell phone or any other electronic device. You are not permitted any food or beverage inside the Courtroom.

There will be a person sitting at the front of the room. This is the Clerk, and he/she assists the Judge and records everything that is said in the Courtroom. If you are in Provincial Court and the Judge has not yet arrived, check in with the Clerk to let him/her know that you are present.

Sit quietly on one of the benches at the back of the room (the gallery). Try not to sit on any of the benches designated for specific people (for example, often the first bench is reserved for lawyers only).

When the Judge or Justice arrives, stand to greet him or her. When the Judge or Justice sits down, you may sit down.

WHAT HAPPENS DURING COURT

In Queen’s Bench, the Justice will first hear any matters being adjourned, any matters going by consent (where the parties have agreed and will not be arguing their matter) and any ex parte matters (where an application is brought without notice to the other side).

Once the adjournment, consent and ex parte matters have been heard, the Clerk will announce the first matter to be heard. Each matter is assigned a number. Your lawyer will check your number on the list prior to Court commencing.

At Provincial Court, it is common for counsel matters to be called first and the Judge and the clerk choose the order in which matters are called. You must check in with the clerk. When your matter is called, you may wish to join your lawyer at the front of the Courtroom. In Provincial Court, this is the norm; whereas, in Queen’s Bench, it is not. If you join your lawyer, bow slightly towards the Judge or Justice when you cross the threshold between the gallery and the centre of the Courtroom (the “bar”). You may then sit next to your lawyer at one of the tables.

During the course of arguments by the lawyers, you may stay seated. The reason you are sitting next to your lawyer is in the event that the Judge has questions for you that your lawyer may not be able to answer. If you are asked a question by the Judge or Justice, always stand up and speak clearly. In Provincial Court, the Judge is referred to as “Your Honour”. In Queen’s Bench, the Justice is referred to as “My Lord” or “My Lady”.

ONCE COURT IS OVER

Once your matter is complete, bow again towards the Judge or Justice as you cross the bar back into the gallery, and once more before you exit the Courtroom. The reason people bow as they cross the bar is to show respect for the Judge or Justice and the legal process. Follow your lawyer outside of the Courtroom quietly and then into the hallway. Do not speak to your lawyer as you exit the Courtroom, as the next matter will be starting as you exit.

Once in the hallway, your lawyer will discuss what occurred in the Courtroom, the outcome of your matter, and the next steps on your file. If an Order was granted by the Judge or Justice, we will ensure that it is granted and will provide you with a filed copy in due course. A filed copy of an Order is an Order that has been signed by a Judge and has a date stamp on the top right corner.

You should keep a binder of all your filed documents at home in a safe place, in the event you ever need to rely on one.

Note that if an Order was granted, it is in effect immediately as soon as the Judge or Justice pronounces it, even if a hardcopy is not yet available.

If you have questions about what you might experience at Court, do not hesitate to contact our office at 587-390-3070.

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