What to Expect in Court

Courtrooms are formal settings for resolving legal matters. If you have not attended a court hearing before, you should be aware that it can often be a busy and crowded place. Also, court sittings may not always run on time. If you are attending court, please be prepared to wait until your case is reached. 

Below you can find some useful information on what to expect in the courtroom, who you can expect to be there, and answers to frequently asked questions in relation to attending court.

What to Expect in the Courtroom

On the day of the hearing, you will not be expected to know all of the courtroom formalities. You will be directed on what to do during the case. For example: 

  • The judge or clerk will tell you where to sit when you enter the courtroom.
  • If you need a break during your hearing you can ask the judge.
  • The judge will give instructions on when people can speak. If someone is interrupting the hearing, it is normal for the judge to tell them that they will get a chance to speak at a later stage. 

Please see more information on what to expect in the courtroom below. 

Things you should know when attending court

  • If you have a solicitor, they will speak to the court on your behalf.
  • Dress appropriately for a formal environment.
  • Stand when the judge enters and leaves the courtroom.
  • Address the judge as 'judge'.
  • Stand when speaking to the court.
  • Turn your mobile phone off or put it on silent.
  • Take notes if necessary.
  • You can bring a friend or family member for support.
  • If you are giving oral evidence, you must swear to tell the truth.

Things you should not do when attending court 

  • Disturb others in the courtroom.
  • Use a mobile or electronic device. 
  • Take pictures or a recording of the hearing on any type of electronic device.  
  • Eat food or chew gum. 
  • Interrupt others when addressing the court. 

Going to Civil Court

This helpful video will provide you with more information on preparing for, and attending, a Civil court hearing. 


Who to Expect in the Courtroom

Before you go to court, you might want to familiarise yourself with the courtroom layout and who will be in it. The diagram below has details on who to expect in the courtroom:

Image of a court room layout

01 Judge

The judge is in charge of your court hearing. They dress formally, and sit at their own bench at the top of the courtroom. The judge enters and leaves the courtroom through a separate door near their bench.

02 Court Registrar

The Court Registrar sits in front of the judge. They assist the judge with administrative matters and are in charge of court documents and evidence. It is the Court Registrar who administers the oath to witnesses and who will record the decision or outcome of the case.

03 Witness

The witness sits to one side of the judge and gives testimony in court. Either the claimant or respondent to a case may be called to the witness box to give testimony during the hearing. Other witnesses may also be called who can provide additional information to a case to help the judge reach a decision.

04 Claimant and Respondent

The claimant in a hearing is the person who started the Civil Law case. The respondent is the person who has had a case started against them. They will sit at different sides of the courtroom. In many cases, they are legally represented by a solicitor or barrister, or both, who will speak to the court on their behalf. In some cases, claimants and respondents may choose to represent themselves and speak directly to the court, and may have reasonable assistance from another person (typically known as a ‘McKenzie Friend ’). For more information on the role of a McKenzie friend, please see our McKenzie friend page. 

05 Solicitor

The solicitor will state the case for their client to the judge and outline what decisions their client is looking for.

06 Barrister 

In addition to a solicitor, either party may also seek representation from a barrister for their hearing. The barrister will face the judge and argue the case on behalf of their client.

07 Assistant to the Judge (not shown on illustration) 

The judge may have an assistant in court. They usually wear a black robe. In addition to other duties, the assistant to the judge often announces the arrival and departure of the judge from the courtroom (usually by saying ‘all rise’).

08 Others (not shown on illustration) 

At any one time, you may find court officers, legal representatives, parties to other cases, and witnesses in the courtroom. Members of the public and press are generally allowed to attend civil court hearings also, except where the court directs otherwise or in certain types of cases, which are always held in private. 

Frequently Asked Questions

I have a disability. How do I access the court building? 

Please contact your relevant court office if you have any specific needs or accessibility requirements, as facilities vary depending on location. Contacting your court office beforehand will help ensure that we can make your visit as easy as possible. 

English is not my first language. Can I use an interpreter in court?

If you have difficulty speaking or understanding English, you may use an interpreter to help you in court. It is your responsibility to bring your interpreter to court. The judge will likely require the interpreter to swear an oath before the hearing starts.

What are video technology-enabled courtrooms?

These are courtrooms that have large video screens. They allow people involved in the case to be present in court remotely, similar to being on a group video call, such as Zoom. Cameras in the court will display the judge, and those who are speaking in the case, such as legal representatives, witnesses, and/or parties to the case, on the screens.

Can I bring a friend with me for support?

Yes, you can bring a friend for moral support if you wish. However, they can not take part in court proceedings.