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Courtroom Etiquette - Court of Queen's Bench - Morning Chambers

What to bring

  • One copy of each of your application documents (eg your Claim and Statement or Application and Affidavit)
  • If you filed any documents within 3 or 4 days of the court date, bring an extra copy for the Judge in case the court copy has not made it to the file.
  • A copy of your filed Affidavit of Service
  • A pen and paper to make notes

What to wear

  • You do not have to dress formally for court, but you should dress conservatively and respectfully.   A suggestion would be to dress as if you were going to a job interview.
  • Remember that all Alberta courts have airport style security and any object that may be used as a weapon will be taken away when you enter the building.

Location and Time of Court

  • “Chambers” refers to morning court located in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Ask at the Clerk’s counter or the Law Information Centre to find out which courtroom chambers is held in.  This is an open courtroom and many matters may scheduled for the same time but will be heard during the course of the morning.
  • Court begins promptly at 10:00 a.m.  If you have any documents that need be sworn, please go to the Clerk’s counter before court starts.  Give yourself extra time if you need to file documents.

Duty Counsel

  • In Edmonton and Calgary, Duty Counsel can help you with your court application.    If you need to speak to Duty Counsel before Court,  please give yourself extra time to do so.

In the Courtroom

  • In some locations, there are electronic displays showing which matters are in which courtroom.  In other locations, there are paper lists.  Check your name on the either the display or the list to make sure you are in the right courtroom.  When the courtroom is opened by the clerk, you may go in and sit in one of the benches in the back of the room.
  • Turn off your cell phone and throw away your gum before court begins.
  • Several matters are all scheduled to begin at the same time.  You will have to wait your turn to be heard by the Judge.
  • The clerk sits at a desk in front of the Judge and makes notes on a computer.  The clerk has all of the court files and will pass them up to the Judge as each case is called.  In some courts, there is a second clerk who will type up the court order for you after the Judge has made a decision.
  • The Judge will be seated in the centre of the courtroom, and you must stand when he/she enters or leaves the room.
  • Ex-Parte applications, (going into court alone without notifying the other person) and Consent Orders, (when both parties agree to the court order) are usually heard first.  If you are doing an ex parte application without the help of duty counsel please fill out an Ex Parte Sheet (on the front table).  
  • After the ex parte applications and consent orders, the Judge will turn to the list (the scheduled applications).  The Judge will first ask if there are any adjournments, and those who have agreed to adjourn their matters will stand and tell the Judge which matter they are adjourning and to when.  The Judge will then begin to go through the remaining matters on the list.

When your case is called

  • Go to the front of the court room when your name is called and sit at one of the tables. The other party or their lawyer will sit on the other side of the courtroom.  There is a podium in the middle where you may stand when you give your presentation to the Judge.   
  • Stand whenever you speak to the Judge or the Judge speaks to you.
  • If the Judge is a woman, you can call her “My Lady”, or “Madam Justice” or “Ma’am”.  If the Judge is a man, you can call him “My Lord”, or “Mr Justice” or “Sir”.  Do not call the Judge “Your Honour” or “Your Worship” or “Your Majesty”.
  • The usual court application follows the following process, although you should listen for and follow any instructions from the Judge.
Which person What they do Example

Applicant

Introduces themselves and the other party (or their lawyer)

Good morning.  My name is Carol Richards.  This is my ex husband George Richards.

Applicant

Says what it is that they are asking for.

I want to reduce my child support and I need a stay of enforcement.

Applicant

Summarizes the facts set out in their court documents and makes their arguments.

 

Judge

May ask questions of the Applicant.

 

Respondent

Summarizes the facts set out in their court documents and makes their arguments.

 

Judge

May ask questions of the Respondent

 

Applicant

Responds to facts or arguments raised by the Respondent.

 

Judge

Makes a decision.

I will set the child support at $328 per month starting January 1st.  I am not prepared to grant a Stay of Enforcement.

Both parties

Thank the Judge

 

  • If you are the Applicant and are self-represented, your court order will be typed up for you.  In Edmonton and Calgary, this is done in the courtroom for you by the Court Generated Orders Clerk, (CGO clerk), usually seated to the right of the Judge.  Please wait for your order to be finished and given to you before leaving, and follow any instructions he/she may give you.  Outside Edmonton and Calgary, contact the Family Justice Services office after court to find out when the order will be completed.

Adjournments

  • There are different reasons why you, or the other party may want to adjourn the application.  Some of these are:
    • If you are the respondent - you have not had a chance to finish, file and serve your affidavit / statement
    • You have been served with the other party’s affidavit / statement just before court, and have not had a chance to go through it thoroughly
    • You and the other party are trying to work out an agreement, and want some more time to do that.
    • You or the other party seeks “Questioning on affidavit”.
    • The Judge may adjourn your case if there is not enough time to deal with it in morning chambers – in that case, it may be adjourned to “Special Chambers” or you may be told to set your case for trial.
  • Consent Adjournment
    • If both parties agree to adjourn, the applicant can phone the Justice Chambers Clerk  and tell them you have agreed to adjourn.  They will want to know your court date, the court file (action) number, and the date you have agreed to adjourn to.  The phone call can be made anytime before your court date, but cannot be made after 9:00 a.m. on the day of court.
    • Or, if you agree to adjourn on the court date, you can stand up at the start of Chambers, when the Judge asks for adjournments.  Tell the Judge your number on the court list, and the date you have agreed to adjourn to.
  • Application to Adjourn
    • If one party wants to adjourn, and the other does not, then you will have to go to court, wait until your case is called, then the person who wants the adjournment will begin by telling the Judge that they want to adjourn, and explaining why.
    • The Judges are usually agreeable to one adjournment, especially if the party is represented by a lawyer and the lawyer is not available on the date scheduled
    • If you are asking for the adjournment because you are not ready, keep in mind that the Judge will assume that you will give your case top priority.   It is unlikely that you will get an adjournment for much longer than a week or so.
    • If you are asking for an adjournment to get Legal Aid, go to see Legal Aid before your court date. That way, you will know how much time it will take.
  • Questioning on Affidavit
    • The other party may ask to adjourn to question you on your affidavit.  If they ask to do this they are ENTITLED to an adjournment, so you should agree to their request. 
    • When they question you, they will set up an appointment with a court reporter for you to attend and be questioned.  They will then have to wait while the court reporter types up the transcript of the question, and will have to file the transcript with the court.  This usually takes about a month to complete, so you can schedule your adjournment around that.  If you want more information about questioning on affidavit, you should talk to a lawyer.
  • Adjournment Dates
    • When a case is adjourned, it is usually adjourned to a specific date.  That way, everyone knows when to come back to court.  However, in some cases, the case is adjourned sine die .  This means it is adjourned generally – without a specific date being set.  If you are representing yourself, it is usually best not to agree to adjourn sine die.

Security

  • A Sheriff is usually available in the hallways before court begins and sits on either the left or the right-hand side of the courtroom while court is in session.
  • If you are concerned for your safety, talk to the Sheriff.  They can assist you.
  • If you act in an aggressive or threatening manner to any person in the court house, the Sheriff may escort you out.

Helpful Hints

  • Please do not bring children, unless there is no other option. Misbehaving children will annoy the Judge and will not help your case, and information shared in the courtroom may not be appropriate for children to hear.
  • Do not eat, drink or chew gum/tobacco in the courtroom.  Remove your hat in the courtroom.  Do not talk to others while court is in session.
  • Turn off cell phones, pagers and music devices.
  • The court proceeding is being recorded, even after the Judge leaves the courtroom.  The recording equipment will pick up every conversation in the room.
  • It is OK to go into or out of the courtroom when it is in session.  Just be sure to do so quickly and quietly.
  • It is OK to discuss your case (outside the courtroom) and try to reach an agreement.  The Judge will always prefer that you settle your case, rather than having them decide.
  • If your case is near the beginning of the list, you can ask the Judge to move it to the end of the list.  That allows the lawyers to go ahead of you, and the courtroom will be emptier when it is your turn.  It also allows the Judge to give you a bit more time, if you need it.
  • If you have any documents for the Judge, hand them to the clerk, and he/she will hand them to the Judge.
  • Do not interrupt the other party.  You will have your chance to speak when they are done.  It is helpful to make notes of what you want to say, so you don’t forget when it is your turn.
  • Do not make noises or faces when the other party is speaking.
  • Do not argue with the Judge.
  • If you do not understand exactly what the Judge has ordered, you can ask the Judge to clarify what they have said.  If the Judge has dealt with part of your issues, but not all, you can ask the Judge for their decision on the remaining issues.
  • This video takes place in Provincial Court Civil Division, but gives some good information about what to expect when going to court.