Entering a Courthouse
Before any court appearance it is a good idea to find the court location ahead of time. Be sure to arrive early to give yourself time to find the right courtroom. Some courthouse have a security check at the entrance that you must go through before entering the courthouse. If you are unsure where to go, be sure to ask court staff for assistance or find the court registry who can assist you.
Courtrooms can seem unfamiliar. Courtrooms can be unique but each will likely have a similar layout to the diagram below. At the front of the room is the elevated seat where the judge will sit. Below them is a place for the clerk who will assist with the court proceedings. There is a witness box where witnesses will sit when they give evidence. If you are testifying you may be asked to sit there. Each party has a table facing the judge where they can sit during the trial. Some courtrooms will have a sheriff attending. The gallery is behind where members of the public can sit and watch.
Be on time for all court appearances. Conduct yourself in a positive, professional manner. Do your best to keep your emotions in check. Judges are interested in the facts and they are very good at seeing through people’s behaviour. If you stay calm, you may come across as the more reasonable party.
The judge will wear black and red robes and lawyers will wear suits. You do not have to wear anything special but it is a good idea to wear the most formal, business-like clothes you have.
Remember to mute or turn off your cell phone and to remove your hat before you enter the courtroom. Do not bring food into the courtroom, unless it is required for medical reasons and you have approval to do so.
Tips for Appearing in Small Claims Court:
- You call the judge “Your Honour”
- Stand up when the judge enters or stands up to leave the room
- Stand up when you are talking to the judge
- Address the judge when you speak or a witness - not the other party
- Do not interrupt when others are speaking
- Once a judge makes a decision, it is final and there is no use arguing with them
Before your trial, it is a good idea to go to court and watch other BC Small Claims Court cases. This will help you to be familiar with the setting and court procedures. It will help you be more prepared and will reduce the stress of going to trial.