Some tips for attending court

Attending court to testify can be a intimidating prospect. The rules of decorum in a courtroom are likely completely foreign to you and it is natural to be worried about doing or saying the wrong thing. Here are a few key points to remember when attending court.

Dressing for court

Choose clean and tidy clothing that is conservative in style. Avoid t-shirts, low necklines, and short hemlines. Make sure your clothing and shoes will be comfortable when worn for long periods of time. Dressing in layers is key for staying comfortable as courtrooms can be stuffy or cool.

Hats and head coverings are not allowed, except for religious reasons. Remove and put away your sunglasses unless you need to wear them for medical reasons.

Also keep in mind that you may be searched by security staff as you enter the courthouse, so check the contents of your backpack, purse or briefcase before you leave home – things like pocketknives will most certainly be confiscated.

Speaking in court and addressing the judge

In general, you should remain silent in court unless you are spoken to by the judge, a lawyer or court staff.

As a sign of respect, everyone in the courtroom must rise when the judge enters the courtroom and remain standing until the registrar invites you to sit down.

Always stand when the judge is speaking directly to you or you are speaking to the judge.

  • If you are in a Superior Court of Justice, you address the judge as “Your Honour”, “Madam Justice (last name)” or “Mister Justice (last name)”.
  • In Provincial Court, you should address the judge as “Your Honour”.
  • Masters should be addressed as “Master” or “Master (last name)”.

When you speak, you can look at your lawyer, the defense lawyer, or the judge. Try your best to ignore or avoid eye contact with anyone in the courtroom who might make you feel anxious or uncomfortable. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification when needed, or a break if you feel you need one.

Eating and drinking

Food and beverages are not allowed in the courtroom. Be sure to eat before you go to court. During your testimony, you may ask for a glass of water if you need one.

Cellphones and electronic devices

Cell phones, pagers, cameras and other electronics are not permitted in court. Please turn them completely off, otherwise they may be confiscated.

Your lawyer will be happy to discuss any other concerns you have, and for more information, visit the Ontario Courts’ Court Etiquette and Procedures page.