What to expect in the courtroom

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Introductions

When your case is called, you must tell the court your name.

Addressing judges

A judge of the High Court must be addressed as Your Honour, Sir (male) or Ma’am (female). Associate judges must be called Sir (male) or Ma’am (female).

If you want to refer to another judge:

  • a judge of the High Court and above is referred to as Justice [Surname]
  • a judge of the District Court and below is referred to as Judge [Surname].

You must stand up when you are speaking to the judge or the judge is speaking to you (unless you are unable to). Only one person should be standing at a time.

You are expected to show respect for the court process at all times. Do not have your cellphone on or engage in text or email communication.

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Dress

You should wear formal business clothing when you appear in court.

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Behaviour

Arrive at court on time, and return from court breaks on time.

Behave politely at all times, including to the opposing parties and their counsel.

Do not interrupt when other parties are speaking, unless (on legal grounds only) you object to a question being asked or the way a question is asked of a witness.

Do not interrupt the judge when they are speaking.

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Language

You are not expected to know legal terms. If you do not understand a term used in court you may ask the judge to explain the term when it is your turn to speak.

You must not swear or use offensive language in court.

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Interpreter services

If you will need an interpreter for a hearing you must tell the court 10 working days before you appear in court. This is to ensure that everyone is aware of your need for an interpreter and the courtroom is set to accommodate the interpreter.

You and the other party should provide the interpreter with a copy of each of the following:

Foreign languages

If you will need an interpreter for a foreign language, you should tell the court at least 10 working days before you appear in court. If you don’t give enough notice, there may be a delay or cost.

The New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters has an online directory which provides contact details, working languages and specialities of each member and affiliate member. An alternative source of interpreters is local language schools.

New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters (external link)

Māori

If you would like to speak Māori during civil proceedings in the High Court you must comply with High Court Rules 1.11 and 1.13. Please complete form G12 and file this with the court. You must also serve a copy of this form to all other parties in the proceedings at least 10 working days before the proceedings. If you don't give enough notice, there may be a delay or cost.

High Court Rules 1.11 and 1.13 (external link)

G12 form (external link)

The New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters directory includes some speakers of Maori. An alternative source is the national translators register of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori, the Maori Language Commission.

New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters (external link)

National translators register (external link)

Sign language

If you need the services of a New Zealand Sign Language interpreter you must comply with High Court Rule 1.16. You must tell the court and other parties to the proceedings that you will need sign language services at least 10 working days before the proceedings. You can do this by completing a Request for an Interpreter form.

High Court Rule 1.16 (external link)

Request for an Interpreter form [PDF, 161 KB]

If you don't give enough notice, there may be a delay or cost.

A list of appropriately qualified and experienced New Zealand Sign Language interpreters can be found on the Office for Disability Issues website (external link)

Complaints about interpreters

All complaints about interpreters must be made in writing and sent to the manager of the High Court within 1 month of the incident you want to complain about. Only complaints received in writing will be dealt with.

The complaint must include all of the following information:

  • your name, address and contact number
  • the interpreter’s name
  • the date and place of the interpreting job
  • a description of the breach you are complaining about.

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Video conferences

In these guidelines, ‘court’ means the courtroom where the judge is present. ‘Remote court’ means the courtroom where the judge is not present. ‘Remote site’ refers to a site that isn’t a courtroom but where you have remote access to the court through video conferencing.

Proceedings conducted by video conference must use normal protocols and procedures.

A person will not be viewed with prejudice because they are appearing by video conference.

Authority to use video conferencing

Parliament introduced legislation that enables video conferencing to be used in a wider range of court proceedings and to be used by a wider range of participants in the court process.

The Courts (Remote Participation) Act 2010 came into force on 7 July 2010. This legislation allows video conferencing to be used for administrative appearances, if facilities are available. This Act also allows evidence to be given by video conference if the judge or registrar agrees and parties consent.

Courts (Remote Participation) Act 2010 (external link)

Under section 103 of the Evidence Act 2006, applications can be made to the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court and any District Court, Family Court or Youth Court for witnesses to give evidence in an alternative way. Alternative ways are outlined in section 105. Video conferencing would be suitable if a witness gives evidence:

  • from an appropriate place outside the courtroom, either in New Zealand or elsewhere, or
  • before the hearing of the proceeding (using a video record).

Read section 103 of the Evidence Act 2006 (external link)

Read section 105 of the Evidence Act 2006 (external link)

Under section 5 of the Courts (Remote Participation) Act 2010, a judge or registrar can consider applications to use video conferencing for any participant in a proceeding.

Read section 5 of the Courts (Remote Participation) Act 2010 (external link)

They must consider the following criteria:

  • the nature of the proceeding
  • the availability and quality of the technology to be used
  • the potential impact of using the technology on the rights of the other participants, including:
    • the reliability of the evidence presented to the court
    • the level of contact with other participants
  • any other relevant matters.

If the judge or registrar allows video conferencing, the court registry officer managing the case will email all participants to confirm the date and time. The email may also contain a questionnaire with additional details about the case, video conference requirements and other statistical information.

Who pays for the video conference?

The Ministry of Justice will pay for the video conference if:

  • the video conference is instigated or required by the court, or
  • the video conference is between New Zealand courtrooms.

In all other circumstances, the cost of a video conference will be met by:

  • the party who applies for the video conference hearing, or
  • the party who calls the witness who appears at the remote site, or
  • the party who appears at the remote site.

Who should book the equipment needed for the video conference?

If a person is going to appear from a remote New Zealand court, staff at the remote court will make all video conference bookings.

If a person is going to appear from a remote site that is not a New Zealand court, that person must confirm the arrangements with court staff at least five working days before the hearing.

If a witness is going to give evidence from a remote site, the party calling the witness must ensure the Bible is available at the remote site if the witness wants to make an oath. (See ‘Oaths and affirmations’ below.)

Equipment at any remote site needs to be booked for at least 90 minutes before the scheduled hearing time and 60 minutes after the video conference appearance is expected to end. The links must be tested one or two days before the scheduled hearing to ensure it provides high-quality audio and video. This may cost extra.

Filing submissions

If a case has been set down for a hearing by video conference, all relevant memoranda or submissions to the hearing must be filed and circulated to all other parties about five days before the event, or as early as is practical.

The registrar will decide whether to accept written documentation produced on the day of the proceeding or during the proceeding. Because documents are sometimes properly introduced during the course of a hearing, a fax machine or scanner must be available at both the court and the remote site, and the contact details must be known to all sites.

  • Documents sent by parties at the remote site are treated as ‘produced to the court’ only when the court receives them.
  • Parties must ensure that relevant documents are A4, black and white, not bound, and single-sided.

Clothing

Court officials, judges, counsel and parties at all court sites will wear normal court clothing (that is, formal business clothing).

Problematic parties

If a person appearing by video conference does not do as they are asked or is acting inappropriately, the judge may tell the court taker to disconnect the link.

Oaths and affirmations

All witnesses or participants giving evidence, regardless of where they are appearing from, must swear an oath or make an affirmation that the evidence they are about to give is truthful.

The registrar or court crier does this in the courtroom or from the court to the remote site using video conferencing. To swear an oath, the person must have the Bible with them. No Bible is needed if the person makes an affirmation.

Interpreters

If a participant appearing by video conference needs an interpreter, the interpreter must make an oath or affirmation administered by the registrar. (See ‘Oaths and affirmations’ above.)

The interpreter must sit next to the participant and provide contemporaneous interpretation or until the participant is required to give their evidence or make an oral submission.

Judicial directions

At the start of the hearing, the judge at the court may:

  • ask the people at the remote site if they can hear and see all speakers at the court
  • ask the people at the remote site to tell them if, at any point during the video conference hearing, they cannot hear or see participants at the court
  • tell people where to sit (this will probably only affect the court)
  • ask for the camera to be moved around the remote site to show that only the participant and any authorised people are there during the hearing
  • tell participants at the court and the remote site that there may be a very brief delay between the picture and the sound (so participants don’t speak over each another)
  • tell participants that picture quality is better when movement is kept to a minimum
  • tell participants to use the Picture in Picture (PiP) function so they are always on the screen.

Technical failure

If the video conferencing technology fails during a hearing, the judge at the court will temporarily adjourn the hearing (they will phone the participant(s) at the remote site to let them know).

If the technical problem is isolated to the remote site or remote site equipment, staff at the site will be responsible for fixing the problem so the video conference hearing can continue.

If the video conference link cannot be restored within a reasonable time, court officials will tell the participants that the hearing has been adjourned or rescheduled.

Emergencies

If there is an emergency at the court, the remote court or the remote site, the presiding judge, the registrar or the remote participant (as appropriate) will advise the other locations that the link will be disconnected because there is an emergency and they must evacuate the site.

When the emergency is over the affected court or remote site will phone the other participants and arrange for the proceeding to continue, unless the presiding judge directs otherwise.

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