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Courtroom Protocol

The first thing you should know about a courtroom is that there is a formal structure to the surroundings and proceedings with defined roles, responsibilities, and rules for the participants.

This is what’s called the courtroom protocol. To maintain the integrity of the criminal process, court observers must remember that a courthouse is a highly traditional environment which deserves a respectful and serious attitude from the public.

For example, dress is conservative; comparable to a business environment or place of worship. Traditional clothing is also acceptable. Conversation and other noises must be kept at a minimum. Observers who break the courtroom rules may be removed from the courtroom. Some suggestions about protocol are as follow:

  • enter and leave the courtroom quietly and stand when a judge enters and exits,
  • do not talk in court or discuss trial proceedings in the halls,
  • do not make visible or audible signs of annoyance (ie. rolling eyes or loud sighs),
  • remember that gum, food, hats, recording devices, cameras, weapons, and standing while court is in session are not permitted,
  • turn off pagers and cell phones,
  • try not to go in and out of a courtroom until there is a break in the proceedings, as it distracts the judge, witness and counsel, and
  • if the trial is in closing argument, stay until a court break is called.

All courtrooms in Canada are open to the public, including children. However, space may be limited and some proceedings may not be suitable for young children. Please use your discretion and make sure all children are fully supervised at all times.

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