At Court | Supreme Court BC (2023)

At Court | Supreme Court BC (1)

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At Court

Last Reviewed: March 2023Reviewed by: JES Download

When You Arrive to the Courthouse

  • Arrive at the courtroom at least 15 minutes early: The courtroom will open up 15 minutes before your scheduled court time. You should be there when it opens

  • Find out what courtroom you are in: There will be a Court list that tells you what courtroom to go to. If you cannot find it, ask a security guard and they can assist

  • Use the bathroom before you go to the courtroom: You may not have another chance for an hour and a half or so once Court begins

  • Turn off your cellphone: When you go into the courtroom, turn off your cell phone and make sure the sound is off on any laptop or tablet you are going to use

  • Be friendly to, or ignore, the other side: You will see the other side to the case, or their lawyer, in or outside the courtroom. This may be the first time you have seen them in a while. You may feel cross towards them, but there is nothing to be gained by being rude or disrespectful. To the contrary, this may be a good opportunity to see if a solution can be worked out, and that will be much easier if you treat them with courtesy and respect. If you cannot speak to them with respect and courtesy, then just ignore them

  • Check in with the Court clerk: Once the courtroom is open, there will be a man or a woman sitting near the front by a computer screen. That is the court clerk. You will need to “check in” with that person. That means telling them what case you are there for, your name, and your role (plaintiff, defendant, petitioner, respondent, etc.)

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  • Set up, or sit in the gallery: If yours is the only case being heard in that courtroom that day, then you can set up your material. You will see a podium in the centre of the front of the courtroom. If you are the plaintiff, petitioner, applicant, or appellant, then you should sit on the left side of that podium. If you are the defendant or respondent then you sit on the right side of the podium

If there is another matter that is being heard before yours, find a seat in the gallery (the audience section of the courtroom) and wait your turn. It will be the same judge or master who hears the first matter that hears yours, so take some time to observe them. What are they like? Does something the parties in the earlier case do seem to work? To not work?

When the Hearing Begins

  • Stand when the judge or master enters: The Court clerk will say “Order in Court” when the judge or master is about to enter. Stand up. Stay standing until after the judge or master has sat down

  • Stand to introduce yourself: The Court clerk will “call the case”. This will mean they will say something like “In the Supreme Court of British Columbia, this 11th day of February 2020, calling the matter of Smith v. Jones”

  • You and the other side will then introduce yourselves. You should say your name, spell your last name, and say who you are (for example, you might say “John Jones, J-O-N-E-S, and I am the plaintiff”

  • Sit while the other side is talking, and stand while you are talking: Unless you have a medical issue, you must stand when talking to the judge or master. When the other side is talking, remain sitting

  • Do not interrupt: Always let a judge finish talking. A good tip is to wait at least 2 seconds after a judge has finished speaking to begin talking yourself. The judge may not have actually finished talking and just been taking a breath. Interrupting the other side is rude and improper, and will only hurt the impression you make to the Court

  • Take notes: When the other side is speaking, it is best to keep your head down and make notes. You will want to remember what they said so you can respond to it. It is especially important to remember what the judge or master says in their questions. These can let you know parts of the case they may be having difficulty with

When It’s Your Turn to Talk

  • Breathe: Stand up at the podium. Take a second and take a deep breath

  • Speak slowly: You need to speak at a pace that the judge can follow. Watch the judge. If they are taking notes this is good. If they are writing something, let them finish before moving on. If they are not taking notes, it may be that you are going too fast for them to keep up with

  • Speak to the judge or master: Your job in Court is to tell the judge or master your story. Everything you say should be directed at them. You do not speak directly to the other side

  • Speak loudly: Make sure that the judge can hear you

  • Follow your notes or your outline: Generally, it is a good idea to go through the submissions you have practiced and outlined first. You can address anything unexpected that the other side said at the end

  • Answer the judge’s questions: If a judge asks you a question, try your best to answer it. If you cannot answer it, you may ask if you can come back to it after a break, if there is enough time. Sometimes you get a question that you will need to think about over the lunch break to answer fully. If you say you are going to come back to something, make sure you do

  • Speak formally: Talk in a respectful and formal way. Call people Mr. X or Ms. X, rather than by their first names (For example, say “Mr. Jones has provided no evidence” instead of “John has provided no evidence”) Do not use slang. Certainly do not use swear words

  • Take notes of the decision: At the end of the hearing, the judge or master may give their decision. When they do this, take notes. Take notes even if you do not like what you are hearing. You want to know exactly what they ordered and exactly why

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How to Address Judges and Court Staff

The ways to address members and staff of the court are set out below. Although they may seem awkward, addressing a judge or a master correctly will help you present your case in court.

Supreme Court Judges

  • In writing: “The Honourable Justice”, followed by their last name (e.g. The Honourable Justice Brown)

  • In court: “Justice”, “Madam Justice”, or “Mr. Justice”



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What court is BC? ›

There are three levels of court in British Columbia, the Provincial Court, the Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeal. The BC Superior Courts consist of the BC Court of Appeal and the BC Supreme Court. Appeals from the Court of Appeal go to the Supreme Court of Canada, which is located in Ottawa.

What is a trial court BC? ›

The Provincial Court is the first level of trial court in British Columbia and hears criminal, criminal youth, family, child protection, small claims, and traffic cases.

What are the 4 levels of court in BC? ›

British Columbia has three levels of court.
  • Provincial Court of B.C. Hundreds of people attend Provincial Court every day. ...
  • B.C. Supreme Court. The B.C. Supreme Court has the power to deal with all indictable (more serious) offences. ...
  • B.C. Court of Appeal. ...
  • Problem-solving Courts. ...
  • Federal Courts.

What do you call a judge in BC court? ›

Court Protocol

Provincial Court judges are addressed as 'Your Honour' inside the courtroom. (Outside court, they are addressed as Judge, followed by their surname, for example, Judge Smith.)

Are BC court cases public? ›

The court keeps a record about what goes on at court hearings. This includes information about the charges, court appearances and outcomes. Unlike an official criminal record, court records are generally available to the public unless a law, a court order or judicial policy say otherwise.

What does Supreme Court of BC mean? ›

The Supreme Court of British Columbia is the province's superior trial court. The Supreme Court is a court of general and inherent jurisdiction which means that it can hear any type of case, civil or criminal. It hears most appeals from the Provincial Court in civil and criminal cases and appeals from arbitrations.

What happens at trial in BC? ›

At trial, the judge hears evidence they will use to decide if the accused is guilty. The accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. It is up to Crown counsel to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offence or offences.

What is a trial record BC? ›

A trial record is a bound book that contains all the pleadings and other documents to be put before the court at the trial. The party who filed the notice of trial must file a trial record at least 14 days, but not more than 28 days, before the first day of trial.

What is the lowest court in BC? ›

The Court system in British Columbia has three levels:
  • Provincial Court: The lower level trial Court, which deals with Small Claims up to $35,000, family, youth criminal offenders, criminal, and traffic matters.
  • Supreme Court: The higher level trial Court. ...
  • Court of Appeal: The province's highest Court.

How does bail work in BC? ›

Types of Bail Orders

After a bail hearing, the accused can either be detained or released. A court can release the accused on either an undertaking or a recognizance. The form of release used depends on the nature of the alleged offence, the background of the accused, and the risk presented in the circumstances.

What is an arraignment hearing in BC? ›

If you are charged with a summary offence or you elect to be tried in Provincial Court you will be asked at your arraignment hearing whether you plead guilty or not guilty. If you plead not guilty, a judicial case manager will set a date for your trial.

What are the lowest levels of court? ›

In either federal or state court, a case starts at the lowest level: a U.S. district court or a state trial court, respectively. If a party disagrees with the outcome at the trial level, they can appeal it to a higher court and eventually petition all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Can you call a judge sir? ›

In person: In an interview, social event, or in court, address a judge as “Your Honor” or “Judge [last name].” If you are more familiar with the judge, you may call her just “Judge.” In any context, avoid “Sir” or “Ma'am.” Special Titles.

Should I call the judge your honor? ›

Address the judge only as “your honor” when addressing the judge in the courtroom. Refer to the judge as “the Court”, “his honor,” or “her honor” if you need to refer to the judge while addressing a witness or the jury.

What do you wear to court in BC? ›

Dressing appropriately for court shows respect for the judge and process. Dress as if you were going to an important job interview. Shorts, tank tops and inappropriate logos are not allowed. Wear comfortable clothes, because you may be in court for several hours.

What is case law in BC? ›

Case law is created when judges interpret legislation in a case, and then this interpretation becomes the standard – sets a precedent – for the meaning of this legislation in other cases. Canada has a “common law” system, which means that its judges are supposed to “follow” earlier decisions by other judges.

What is the BC court of Human Rights? ›

The BC Human Rights Tribunal

The tribunal is where you can make a complaint that someone has discriminated against you under the Code. The tribunal's job is to resolve human rights complaints in a way that is fair to the parties – the person who made the complaint and the person whom the complaint is against.

What is family court in BC? ›

Family Court deals with many, but not all, of the legal issues that affect families. It handles the following issues under the BC Family Law Act: guardianship of a child and parental responsibilities. parenting time and contact with a child. child support and spousal support.


1. Courts of BC - Overview
(Justice Education Society of BC)
2. Questioning witnesses in a BC Supreme Court trial
(Legal Aid BC)
3. Scheduling and preparing for a BC Supreme Court Trial
(Legal Aid BC)
4. Introduction to BC Supreme Court
(Justice Education Society of BC)
5. Introduction - Supreme Court of BC
(Justice Education Society of BC)
6. Giving testimony in BC Supreme Court
(Legal Aid BC)
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