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Going to court checklist

14 June 2017

The prospect of appearing in or even attending court proceedings will fill most people with a sense of dread. Court proceedings present a number of unknowns. And to most people, a courtroom does not seem to be an inviting or friendly environment. While the participants in a court process may appear to be aloof and unfriendly, these people are aware of the stress and anxiety that a person may feel when coming to court. These people will answer questions and provide help.

The courtroom is used for several types of cases. Therefore, depending on the nature of the case or the stage of the proceedings, the courtroom and the people in it can look quite different. For instance, if the court is set up for a criminal case, there may be a jury, a full press box, an accused person near the back of the court, several lawyers, the Judge, a registrar, and members of the New Zealand Police. However, a commercial case in the early stages of its court process will be handled in what is called a list. In that case, there is no jury or police. Also, during one day, several cases will be heard one after another. Those cases usually involve different lawyers who enter and leave the courtroom as their cases are called and dealt with.

Accordingly, how you prepare for court will depend on the type of case and your reason for attending.

Below is a checklist of key things you can do to prepare if you are attending court as a client in a civil (that is, a non-criminal) case:

  • If you are the client, travel to court with your lawyer. It is the best way to appear, and feel, as if you know what you are doing, and to avoid becoming lost or anxious. The courtroom is one of your lawyer’s places of work.
  • If you are to appear in court as a witness in your own case, ask your lawyer questions about when you will be asked to appear, and who will speak to you and when.
  • Check whether the case is to be heard in the District Court, High Court, or Family Court (or indeed the Court of
  • Appeal or Supreme Court) as these courts may be in different places.
  • Dress tidily. Judges have been known to refuse entry into their court because of what a person is wearing. Wear a suit or equivalent if possible.
  • Turn your mobile phone to silent. Mobile phones may not be used in court, and the Judge will become annoyed if they hear a phone ring.
  • Do not take photographs.
  • Be respectful. The Judge will demand respect from people when they are in their courtroom. The courtroom is a solemn place; so, the judge will not tolerate loud conversations, rudeness, foul language, or poor behaviour.
  • Call your lawyer the day before to ask any questions about the appearance; such as, the time your case is to be heard and which courtroom will be used. (There are several courtrooms at one place.)
  • Be prepared to wait or stay for longer than you planned. The process of administering justice is not straight forward and hiccups do occur. So, bring a book!


Source: InBrief Winter 2017

Author: Hayley McKee

InBrief Winter 2017