Making the decision to represent yourself at court can be daunting, especially if you are unfamiliar with the legal environment and standards. If you do choose to represent yourself, use these guidelines for preparation and conduct when presenting your case.
Preparing Your Case
Thorough preparation will help your case run smoothly when the big day arrives. Do as much research as possible and gather all of the available information regarding your case. Familiarise yourself with the process of presentation and cross-examination, DGB Lawyers Sydney can assist you with this.
Although there are no set rules regarding appearing in court, the courtroom is a formal environment and you will feel more comfortable if you are dressed professionally. Have all of your documents organised and marked, including those already filed through the court. Take a note pad and a pen with you.
Arriving at Court
It can be helpful to sit in a courtroom prior to your hearing. You can do generally do this as most hearings are held in open court, this will also ensure you know the whereabouts of the courtroom on the day of your case.
Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early. Court staff are there to help if you do find yourself lost. You are allowed to take a family member or friend with you for support.
Inside the Courtroom
Before entering the courtroom, turn off all electrical equipment and remove hats and sunglasses unless they are for medical or religious purposes. Give your name to the person assisting the judicial officer and inform them that you are representing yourself.
As there may be a number of cases scheduled for the same day, you will have to wait for your name to be called. While waiting, avoid talking or causing any distractions. You must stand when the Magistrate enters or leaves the court room, the court officer will give instruction for this.
Presenting Your Case
When your case is called, the court officer will direct you to the bar table. Take your paperwork with you but refrain from placing bags or briefcases on the bar table. Stand facing the Magistrate, announce your name clearly, and state whether you are the applicant or respondent.
When the Magistrate announces their decision, listen carefully to the reasoning and take notes. If you miss or do not understand any orders, ask the Magistrate to repeat or explain them once they have finished speaking.
If the Magistrate reserves their decision for another time or date, you must attend court when the decision is handed down.
Tips on Protocol
When presenting your case in court:
- Do not address comments to anyone other than the Magistrate
- Do not point, shout or use abusive language
- Do not take food or drinks into the courtroom
- Listen carefully and answer clearly when asked a question
- If the Magistrate says something is not relevant, move to your next point
- Stand when you are speaking or being spoken to
- Address the Magistrate as ‘Your Honour’ and a registrar as ‘Registrar’.
Seeking Legal Advice
DGB lawyers can help you understand your legal rights and responsibilities. Seeking legal advice is recommended before you decide to represent yourself.