What does this court do?
The majority of BC’s court cases are heard in the Provincial Court. The types of issues that The Provincial Court deals with are:
- Small claims: civil claims between $5,001 and $35,000
- Family and child protection matters
- Adult and youth criminal matters
- Traffic and bylaw
Any contact you have with the Courts will likely occur in the Provincial Court. You could appear as a party to a small claims case or maybe even as a witness in a criminal case. The scope of the Court’s work is such that its judges are the face of justice for the vast majority of British Columbians.
Who is who?
Judges oversee hearings and trials. Provincial Court judges are addressed as “Your Honour” inside the courtroom. Outside court, they are addressed as Judge, followed by their surname, for example, Judge Smith. Judicial Justices deal with pre-trial court criminal appearances, trial scheduling, some small claims, traffic and some bail matters. If you are in a court with a Judicial Justice presiding, you should refer to them as “Your Worship”.
What to wear
The judges of this court wear black and red robes, the traditional court attire for a Provincial Court judge. People’s lives are affected in significant ways in court, so the formal attire reflects the seriousness of the court proceedings. Lawyers don’t wear robes in Provincial Court, although they do in the Supreme Court. Lawyers in Provincial Court wear suits.
Members of the public do not have to wear anything special, but if you own business-like clothing, it’s a good idea to wear it when you come to court. This is a way to show the judge that you respect the court process and that you understand that court is a more formal setting.
When the judge or judicial justice enters the court or leaves the court, everyone who can, must stand up. You should stay standing until the judge or judicial justice sits down or leaves. You may notice that the lawyers bow. This is only required of the lawyers and not the public. Bowing shows their respect for the court. Members of the public sit in the gallery area until their case is called. At that point they can “cross the bar” and sit or stand in front of the judge or justice of the peace. There are no juries in Provincial Court and all trials are heard in front of a judge.
No one is allowed to wear hats inside the courtroom. Food and drinks are also not allowed inside the court room, including water bottles unless you stow them away in your bag.
Lawyers are allowed to use their cellphones in court although not for making calls. They will generally have their phones on silent mode (or will be very embarrassed if it rings). However, members of the public are not allowed to text or otherwise use their phones. If you do, you risk having it seized by the sheriff!
The judges hear cases in the courtrooms from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm and from 2 pm to 4:30 pm Monday to Friday. The registry for filing documents is open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.