Representing Yourself

The National Self-Represented Litigants Project has produced a guide entitled “Coping with the Courtroom: Essential Tips and Information for Self-Represented Litigants. This guide may contain helpful information for persons representing themselves in this Court. Persons referring to this document should note that it was not prepared specifically for the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. The information contained within it is general in nature and may not reflect the specific practice in this Court. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Court’s Registry.

What Legislation and Rules Govern My Case?

There are special rules of procedure for cases heard in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. Many of the procedural rules can be accessed online, through the following links:

There are also “Practice Notes” which are additional rules which a Court may also require be followed. Supreme Court Practice Notes can be accessed online:

If you have procedural questions, please feel free to contact the Court Registry. Registry staff may be limited in the information that they can provide to you.

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Can I Appeal a Decision of the Court?

Supreme Court (General Division) Appeals

The Supreme Court, General Division hears appeals from Provincial Court summary criminal matters, family matters and small claims. The Supreme Court, General Division also hears applications for review of decisions from certain administrative tribunals, such as the Residential Tenancies Board, and many professional disciplinary bodies. However, because not all appeals from decisions of the Provincial Court and administrative tribunals are made to the Supreme Court, General Division, it is important to check the applicable legislation.

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What Happens if My Appeal is Unsuccessful?

What happens if my appeal is unsuccessful?

It depends on what you’re appealing:

What You’re Appealing:

What Could Happen If You’re Unsuccessful:

Criminal conviction

Your conviction will stay the same.

Criminal sentence

Usually your sentence will stay the same, but in very rare cases the Court could actually increase it.

Any other order

You might have to pay costs to the other parties. Of course, if you’re successful they might have to pay costs to you.


NOTE - Costs don’t always go with success. Sometimes the successful party even has to pay costs. It depends on the case.

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Court Etiquette

There are rules about behaviour in the courtroom which may not be found in the written rules, but are followed nonetheless. Such rules include: no gum chewing in court, no hats, no coffee or other drinks can be brought into the courtroom, and no cell phones. If you do have a cell phone, please make sure you turn it off before you enter the courtroom.

It is a good idea to dress smartly for any court proceedings. A tidy appearance is more likely to create a good and positive impression. Stand when the Judge enters the courtroom. When entering or leaving the courtroom while the court is in session, bow or nod your head. Avoid talking while the court is in session. When your turn comes to speak to the Judge, stand up and speak clearly and loudly. Refer to the judge as “Justice”. Remain polite and courteous at all times. Abusive language is unlikely to persuade the Judge of the value of your case.

To start a hearing, the Court Officer will call the Court to order. The Applicant (person making the application) will normally speak first. If witnesses are required for a hearing, they must be subpoenaed to the hearing by the party who intends to use them as witnesses. A subpoena is a court document which orders a witness to attend court at a certain date and time. You can request a copy of a blank subpoena from the Court Registry. You will need to ensure it is properly filled out and properly served (ie. formally delivered according to the Rules of Court) on the required witness.

If the hearing involves witnesses, then the Applicant’s witnesses are normally called first. The Applicant or his/her lawyer will examine (ask questions) of a witness and then the Respondent (or his/her lawyer) will have the opportunity to ask questions of that same witness. If further questions arise for the Applicant as a result of the questioning by the Respondent, the Applicant is normally allowed to ask a few extra questions if necessary.

After the Applicant has called his/her witnesses to the stand, the Respondent will also be able to call their own witnesses. The Respondent or his/her lawyer will examine (ask questions) of a Respondent witness and then the Applicant (or his/her lawyer) will have the opportunity to ask questions of that same witness. If further questions arise for the Respondent as a result of the questioning by the Applicant, the Respondent is normally allowed to ask a few extra questions if necessary.

The Applicant and Respondent will sometimes testify as well as part of a hearing where witnesses are called.

Below are some common questions which arise when people are testifying in Court:

I am afraid I will panic, or become emotional, when I testify. How do I calm down?

The way you are feeling is entirely normal. You may want to practice relaxation exercises before you testify (such as concentrating on breathing deeply and slowly). You might want to consider bringing a support person to court who will sit with you before you go into court.

What if I just don’t say anything when I am asked questions by the lawyers?

You cannot refuse to answer questions while you are testifying. You could be held in contempt of court, which is very serious, and you may be put in jail.

What if I start crying?

Don’t worry if you cry in court. People cry all the time. In fact, most witness stands have a box of tissues close by. If you need to take a moment to gather yourself together, ask the judge for a break.

I am afraid that I won’t understand the lawyers and their questions. What should I do?

If you don’t understand a question, make sure you tell the judge. The lawyer may be asked to re-phrase the question, or the judge may explain it further. Don’t be embarrassed to say you don’t understand. Legal language can sometimes be confusing to people who don’t work in the legal system.

What happens if a lawyer says objection while I am testifying?

If one of the lawyers says objection while you are testifying, stop talking. The judge may want to hear from each of the lawyers before the judge decides whether you can continue talking about what you were talking about.

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