Provincial Court

Etiquette & Procedures

At first, Court may appear to be a complex and confusing process with many rules to follow. The resources below provide more information on Court etiquette and procedures.

Court Etiquette

There are unwritten rules that govern the behaviour of those attending Court.

  • Arrive early and confirm the courtroom number.
  • No special attire is required, but keep the seriousness of the occasion in mind and dress accordingly. Avoid extravagant, distracting or informal clothing. Hats should not be worn in the courtroom.
  • Be respectful to the judge, all court staff, lawyers and witnesses.
  • Avoid wearing scented products such as perfumes, colognes and aftershaves.
  • Do not chew gum or bring food or drink into the courtroom.
  • Do not bring cell phones into the courtroom. Where this cannot be avoided, ensure they are on a silent setting or turned off.

Court Procedures

Although the Acts, Rules & Practice Notes provide information on Provincial Court processes, the following information may also be helpful.

  • An Introduction to Court PDF
  • When court opens, the court clerk will call the court to session and announce the name of the judge.
  • Stand while the judge enters the courtroom and remain standing until he or she sits down.
  • All persons are required to take an oath before God or otherwise affirm that they will tell the truth.
  • In criminal matters, lawyers represent either the Queen (known as Crown Attorneys) or the accused (known as defence counsel). Accused persons will occasionally represent themselves.
  • In a criminal prosecution, no one can be found guilty or be convicted unless the Crown Attorney is able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The Crown Attorney PDF also has other duties, responsibilities, and ethical concerns. Please see the Department of Justice, Public Prosecutions website for more information.
  • The role of defence counsel is to defend his or her client to the fullest extent of the law, within the bounds of legal ethics

It is also important to be aware of the fact that the majority of trials are open to the public. As such, your testimony may be reported on in any and all forms of media (newspapers, television, radio and internet) unless the judge has made a specific order against it.

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Photography and Video Recording

Purpose

This Protocol sets out the guidelines for the use of photography and video recording devices inside both courthouses and courtrooms of Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. Its purpose is to:

  • avoid obstruction and allow free movement of courthouse users;
  • avoid harassment of courthouse users with cameras and microphones;
  • protect litigants and witnesses by reducing the nervousness and anxiety that they feel when appearing or testifying in court;
  • ensure safe access to courtrooms of persons involved in court proceedings;
  • ensure public and media access to judicial information; and
  • maintain order, security and decorum in places where justice is administered.

Definitions

  1. Camera: any device which can produce a still image or record video including, but not limited to, cameras (both film and digital), cellular telephones and tablets.
  2. Transmit: The dissemination of information via television, radio, internet or other electronic means, including but not limited to e-mailing, blogging, tweeting, texting and posting on Facebook or other social networking sites.

Application

  1. General - This Protocol applies to all persons attending a location where proceedings of the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador are being conducted or transmitted, including proceedings via videoconference or teleconference.
  2. Judicial Orders - The presiding judge retains overriding responsibility to maintain courtroom decorum and to ensure that court proceedings are conducted in a manner consistent with the proper administration of justice.

Publication Bans

Any person using a camera in a courthouse or courtroom of the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador has the responsibility to comply with any publication bans, sealing orders, or other restrictions imposed either by statute or court order.

Use of Cameras - Civil, Family and Criminal Matters

1) In the Courtroom:

The use of cameras to produce a still image or record video or transmit an image or video is permitted in the courtroom when the court is not in session but is NOT permitted when the Court is in session except where the presiding judge orders otherwise.

2) In Family Proceedings (including Child Protection matters):

The use of cameras to produce a still image or record video or transmit an image or video is NOT permitted in the courtroom except where the presiding judge orders otherwise.

Notwithstanding the forgoing, the use of cameras is permitted during a ceremonial proceeding in the Court such as a wedding, a swearing-in or a call to the bar.

3) In the Courthouse:

The use of cameras to take pictures, record video or conduct interviews is permitted in the courthouse as follows:

  • In an area designated for this purpose by the Director of Corporate Services; or
  • Where expressly authorized in writing by the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Notwithstanding the forgoing, the use of cameras is permitted in the courthouse prior to and after a ceremonial proceeding in the Court such as a wedding or a swearing-in for purposes relating to that procedure.

Enforcement

Anyone who uses a camera in a manner the presiding judge (courtroom) or the Director of Corporate Services (courthouse) determines to be unacceptable may be ordered to turn off the device, leave the device outside the courtroom, leave the courtroom, or abide by any other order the presiding judge may make.

Protocol on Photography and Video Recording PDF (240 KB)

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Recording and the Use of Communications Devices during Court Proceedings

Purpose

This Protocol sets out the guidelines for the use of communications devices during proceedings of the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. This Protocol is founded on the “open courts” principle, which requires transparency and accountability in the judicial system in order to foster public confidence in the administration of justice.

Definitions

  • Communication device: any device which can be used to transmit, record or receive audio, including computers, personal electronic and digital devices, and mobile, cellular and smart phones.
  • Transmit: The dissemination of information via television, radio, internet or other electronic means, including but not limited to e-mailing, blogging, tweeting, texting and posting on Facebook or other social networking sites.

Application

  1. General - This Protocol applies to all persons attending or participating in a location where proceedings of the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador are being conducted or transmitted, including proceedings via videoconference or teleconference.
  2. Judicial Orders - The presiding judge retains overriding responsibility to maintain courtroom decorum and to ensure that court proceedings are conducted in a manner consistent with the proper administration of justice. In deciding whether to restrict the use of communication devices, the presiding judge may consider whether there is evidence regarding factors such as:
    • whether the use of communication devices would disrupt court proceedings, or interfere with the proper functioning of the court’s electronic equipment; or
    • whether the use of communication devices would interfere with witness testimony, or unreasonably infringe anyone's privacy or security.

Publication Bans

Any person using a communication device during a proceeding of the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador has the responsibility to identify and comply with any publication bans, sealing orders, or other restrictions imposed either by statute or court order.

Use of Communication Devices while the Court is in Session

Subject to an order by the presiding judge, the use of communication devices while the court is in session is permitted as follows:

  1. Unofficial Audio Recordings - Communication devices can be used as audio to record, but not transmit, court proceedings. Unofficial recordings of court proceedings are to be used for note-taking purposes only.
  2. Tweeting and Texting - Tweeting, texting, and other forms of live, text-based communication are permitted when the court is in session.
  3. Speaking on Communication Devices - With the exception of teleconferencing, videoconferencing or other technology for court purposes, speaking on communication devices while the court is in session is not permitted.
  4. Discreet Use Required - Where the use of a communication device is permitted:
    • it must be used in a discreet manner that does not interfere with court proceedings;
    • it must be set to silent or vibrate mode.

Enforcement

Anyone who uses a communication device in a manner the presiding judge determines to be unacceptable may be ordered to turn off the device, leave the device outside the courtroom, leave the courtroom, or abide by any other order the presiding judge may make.

Protocol on Recording and the Use of Communications Devices during Court Proceedings PDF (181 KB)

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