What to expect when you appear in court

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Introductions

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

Addressing Judges

A Judge of the District Court must be addressed as Judge, 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 and do not text or email anyone.

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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 are going to need an interpreter for a hearing you must tell the court 10 working days before you appear in court. This is to make sure that everyone is aware that you will be using an interpreter and the courtroom is set up to accommodate the interpreter.

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

  • the statement of claim
  • the statement of defence
  • the names of witnesses.

Foreign languages

If you are going to 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 that has the contact details, working languages and specialities of each member and affiliate member:
New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters (external link)

An alternative source of interpreters is local language schools.

Māori

If you would like to speak Māori during civil proceedings in the District Court you must comply with District Courts Rule 1.15 (external link)

Please file a notice of intention to speak in Māori 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.

Notice of intention to speak Māori [PDF, 227 KB]

The New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters directory includes some speakers of Māori:

New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters (external link)

An alternative source is the national translators register of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, the Māori Language Commission:

National translators register (external link)

Sign language

If you need the services of a New Zealand Sign Language interpreter you must comply with District Courts Rule 1.20 (external link)

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 may do this by filling in a Request for an Interpreter form. 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 of Disability Issues website (external link)

Complaints about interpreters

All complaints about interpreters must be made in writing and sent to the manager of the District 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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