Walk into any court room and you will automatically feel the respect and formality everywhere you look. I always find there is something very solemn and revered about the Court where the truth is separated from the lies, judgments are weighed and delivered and precedents set for future generations to follow. It is only befitting that such an atmosphere would have its special code of conduct.
You can call it the CCC, or triple C or even C3 but whatever you call it, the Court’s Code of Conduct is something everyone should add to that area of the brain where etiquette and netiquette mingle and socialise.
Whether it’s the Local Court, Family Court or High Court there are certain things that should be (or not be) done when in them. However before the list of Dos and Don’ts is presented, do let’s take a walk down tradition lane.
I don’t know about you but it seems that the first question I get asked when people know I am a solicitor is “Do you wear a wig?” My reply is always “not yet, my hair is still intact.” However there is more behind my not wearing a wig than my head-full of hair.
Introduced in the 1680s, wigs became part of the court attire and as time passed so did their function. Nowadays, the wig is worn by judges and barristers appearing in the Family court, Supreme Court or High Court. Which leads to the second most asked question “What is the difference between a barrister and a solicitor?”
In a nutshell, a solicitor is the lawyer who will handle the case from the get go, prepare the documents and handle the everyday running of the matter. A barrister is the lawyer who will go to Court at Hearings, the one who will cross examine witnesses and is usually easily spotted by their traditional black robes.
Another person you will come across in court is a Court Officer. An officer is the one who will make sure the parties names are called out before court, a document is handed up to the Bench (where the Judge or magistrate sits) from the Bar (the table facing the Bench where lawyers sit).
Now that you have identified the ‘usual suspects’ of a court room like pieces in a chess board, lets talk about the promised list of basic Court Dos and Don’ts. So without further ado
- Bow before entering or leaving the courtroom if a Judge or Magistrate is sitting. Not a dramatic bow with a flourish, more like a respectable bowing of the head.
- Do stand up when a Judge or Magistrate enters or leaves the room and bow when they are about to sit or leave the Bench.
- Do refer to the Judge or Magistrate as “Your Honour” not “darling” or “sweetheart” as I have heard in the past.
- Do switch mobile phones off when in the court room.
- Talk loudly in court unless asked directly by the Judge or Magistrate
- Take food or drink in
- Sit at the bar table unless specifically requested to do so
- Record (video or voice) any court proceedings
- Read a newspaper while waiting for your turn
The best advice I share today is one I heard given in a dining etiquette lesson – when in doubt look at what others around you are doing.
However remember good lawyers will always run through the CCC with their client before Court starts.