Area of Law: Small Claims Court
Answer # 555
What happens at court?Region: Ontario Answer # 555
Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant, knowing what happens at court and what to do when you arrive will help you be less nervous and better prepared, which may increase your chances of succeeding at trial. One of the best ways to be prepared, is to arrive at least half an hour early to become familiar with the court.
What to do when you arrive at court
When you arrive at court, you will need to find the courtroom where your trial will take place. By looking at the posted lists outside the door of each courtroom you should find your name. If you are not on the list, you should go to the court staff office and ask a staff member to help you find the right room.
Once the doors of the courtroom are opened, tell the clerk at the front of the room that you are present and ready for the trial. Then, take a seat. When the judge arrives, everyone will be asked to stand and the judge will enter and sit on a raised platform at the front of the courtroom.
What to do if you arrive late
If you arrive, and the judge is already in the courtroom it means that a trial is going on. You can enter the courtroom quietly and sit down. You should wait until your name is called. If there is a break, you should tell the clerk that you are present.
What to do when your name is called
When you hear your name called, you should walk to the front of the courtroom. If you are the plaintiff, you should stand at the right. If you are the defendant, you should stand at the left. You should state your name for the judge who is always called ‘Your Honour.’ If the plaintiff or defendant does not show up for the trial, the judge will decide whether the case will go ahead without that person, or whether the trial will happen on another day.
Who speaks first ?
Generally, the plaintiff is first to present their side of the case. If the plaintiff is testifying for their own case, the court clerk will ask the plaintiff to swear to tell the truth and the plaintiff will begin by explaining their position. The plaintiff should then tell the judge all the important facts in the order that they happened, and show the judge any evidence. The defendant will then be allowed to ask the plaintiff questions. If the plaintiff has a witness, the plaintiff will ask the witness questions first, then the defendant will have a turn to question the witness.
When you are testifying, you are usually seated in the witness box located beside the judge’s bench. At any other time, always stand when you are speaking to the judge.
Once the plaintiff is finished proving their case, it is the defendant’s turn to tell their story, show evidence, and call witnesses just as the plaintiff did. The plaintiff will be able to question the defendant and the defendant’s witnesses.
Whether you are speaking to the judge or asking a witness questions, always be courteous. Even if you feel the other side is not telling the truth, you should not get angry or interrupt.
The only time you may interrupt the other side is if you are making an objection to a question. You should not make an objection unless you feel it is necessary. Then, stand up and tell the judge you object to the question and why. For example, if the question has nothing to do with the case, or if the other side is yelling at your witness, you may object. The judge will consider your objection and then decide what will be done about it.
Before making a final decision on who wins the case, the judge will usually ask both the plaintiff and the defendant to summarize their positions. The judge can decide not only whose position is correct, but also if any party will have to pay the other’s costs. If you are asked to summarize your case, do not make a big speech or repeat all the evidence. You may outline for the judge why you feel you have proved your case.
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