How does one address other people in court ?
There are rules for conduct in court rooms. The main rule is to ensure proper decorum and formality. Often times, these customs—not unlike our system of Common Law—can trace their origins to Medieval England, and are firmly woven into the fabric of our legal system. Here is a brief look at a few courtroom etiquette points that you should know as you present your Ottawa personal injury claim.
Generally speaking, a Judge (now called « Justice ») is to be called « Your Honour » in English, or « Monsieur le juge » or « Madame la juge » in French. This rule applied when addressing the Judge both in or out of court. Unless the Judge says otherwise, whenever addressing a Judge, the person must stand. Generally, no person beyond the bar may address the Judge. If this happens, the court registrar or Judge will say « Order ». This means that the person must stop talking until further instructions from the Judge.
It is proper etiquette to refer to opposing counsel as « my friend » or as Mr. X or Ms. X. Legal counsel use the term « my friend » because notwithstanding all the emotions and stresses in the courtroom, they remain friends at the Bar (as lawyers). Counsel must never address each other directly while the court is in session; all communication should be directed toward the Judge, unless the Judge permits it. One may generally be formal and not refer to opposing counsel by their first name while court is in session. Moreover, it is bad etiquette to refer to opposing counsel as « my opponent » or « my adversary ». One may not address the court registrar, court reporter or court services officer while court is in session, unless permission is asked of the judge first.
Parties in the Action
Parties are referred to according to their position in the action : «the plaintiff» and « the defendant », or « the applicant » and « the respondant », depending on whether a matter is begun by action or an application.
Members of the Public
A member of the public may be referred to as Mr or Ms. They may also be referred by their title, e.g. doctor, pastor, sergeant, etc. Children will be addressed by their first name to put them more at ease and often to protect their identity.
As a measure of respect, counsel will make appropriate effort to understand how to properly pronounce every person’s name. The same holds true for the Judge and opposing counsel; if there is ambiguity in the pronunciation, you should ask « how do I properly pronounce your name ?
In the end, proper conduct will show respect for everyone in a court room and proper decorum and etiquette should be followed.
Our Ottawa personal injury and accident lawyers will help you with all aspects of court presence within our complex but fair legal system.
If you or someone you care about was injured in an accident, please contact one of our lawyers for a free consultation. We work on a no-fee-until-you-win basis. Call us at 613-315-4878.