The Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta is a formal court and all court proceedings are formal and solemn occasions. Non-lawyers should not cross the threshold between the gallery and the Judge’s dais without explicit permission from the presiding Justice. Lawyers who have been called to the bar of Alberta are granted the privilege of crossing “the bar” and using the counsel tables. Because we now have many self-represented parties in our court system, they are granted permission to use these facilities in order to present their cases.
As we encounter more and more self-represented parties in court, many clients want to know whether they can sit with me at the counsel tables when their matter is being presented to the Judge. Clients see other parties from other cases sitting at the counsel table and speaking directly to the Judge. Clients also see the opposing party when they are self-represented being able to speak about their own case to the Judge. Some clients want to have that same opportunity. We ask our clients to sit in the gallery and not speak directly to the Judge when their case is being heard.
If you have the privilege of having a lawyer represent you, it is important to trust that lawyer and their preparation and understand that they will be more effective in presenting your case than you would. Lawyers have the advantage of experience and training to be able to present your case in the best possible manner. Lawyers are also free of personal involvement in your matter and are able to present your case in an objective manner. While you feel very passionate about your case, it is hard to see that this high-level of passion can actually be a barrier to having yourself understood by the presiding Justice.
There are also practical considerations. Clients have the best of intentions and want to make sure that their lawyer does not miss anything. When your lawyer is cross-examining a key witness, you may find yourself compelled to write notes to the lawyer and try to pass them to the lawyer to make sure they do not miss a certain point. This is highly distracting and can interrupt the flow of the cross-examination. Beyond that, it is distracting and disruptive to the Trial Judge who is focussed on the evidence. This rarely leaves a Trial Judge with a positive impression and is not helpful to your case.
When we represent you in court, we are fully prepared and have a full understanding of your matter. It is extremely rare that we will miss a key point. While it is not at all required, our clients are free to take notes in the gallery if they want to. For all lengthy court appearances, there will be breaks. Our clients may review their notes with the trial lawyer or any key points during those breaks.
Trial work requires incredible mental focus and energy. Even with the best of intentions, distractions break that focus and make this already challenging task much more difficult. For this reason, the trial lawyer sits alone.