The trial

The trial is the final hearing. The parties or their lawyers will present their case to the Judge and/or jury, witnesses are called to give evidence and the Judge will make a final decision.

At trial, the Judge does not investigate the facts. The parties choose what evidence to put forward in their case to the Judge or jury. If you are representing yourself, you will need to:

  • outline the case and supporting arguments (in a way that complies with the legal rules)
  • ask witnesses questions (in a way that complies with legal rules) and make note of what they say
  • consider what the testimony of the witness means for your case
  • give evidence and prepare to be cross-examined by the other party's legal representative (if they have one)
  • follow directions and orders of the Judge.

You may find it helpful to attend court before the day of your case and watch similar proceedings to become familiar with court procedures. Court lists are updated each day and you can view them in the Court schedule section. At the Melbourne court, case lists are displayed on monitors located on the ground floor, and on levels one and two.

Who will be in the courtroom?

The Judge will sit at the bench. The tipstaff (a member of the judge's staff responsible for order in the courtroom) and the judge’s associate (a legal assistant to the judge) sit in front of the bench. You should let the tipstaff or judge’s associate know when you are in the courtroom.

Lawyers for the other party will be seated at the bar table, which is a long table nearest to the bench.

The Judge, Judge’s associate and the lawyers wear robes during a trial. The tipstaff wears a grey uniform.

The witness box is located near the bar table. Some courtrooms also have a jury box and dock (where a person who is in custody must sit).

Security personnel may also be in the courtroom.

Courtroom etiquette

Respectful behaviour is expected from all parties inside the courtroom. Some examples are:

  • bow to the Judge when you are entering or leaving the courtroom
  • stand and bow when the Judge enters or leaves the courtroom
  • dress appropriately (no hats, sunglasses, or shorts)
  • do not stand, talk, or move around when a witness is being sworn into court
  • avoid talking, eating and chewing gum
  • turn mobile and electronic devices off.

Talking is only permitted where it is necessary for a party to speak to their lawyer.

The Judge is addressed as ‘Your Honour’, the barristers by their name, for example, Mr Smith. All parties will be given an opportunity to speak. You must stand when speaking with the Judge or witnesses.

What to expect at the start of a trial

The Judge may give directions as to the conduct of the trial. However, as a general rule the following applies:

  • the person bringing the case (the plaintiff) or their representative will outline their case to the Judge or advise if there are any preliminary matters to be decided by the Judge before the trial begins
  • the person responding to the case (the defendant) will be given the opportunity to speak to or raise any preliminary issues
  • the Judge may make a ruling on these matters
  • the Judge may order witnesses to wait outside until they are called to give evidence
  • the plaintiff will call witnesses to give evidence (known as evidence-in-chief)
  • the plaintiff will ask the witness questions
  • the defendant will ask that witness questions (known as cross-examination)
  • the plaintiff will have an opportunity to ask the witness further questions arising from the questions asked by the defendant (known as re-examination)
  • the defendant will call witnesses to give evidence
  • the defendant will ask the witness questions
  • the plaintiff will cross-examine the witness
  • the defendant will have an opportunity to re-examine the witness
  • other evidence, such as documents, may be presented through witnesses
  • the plaintiff will make the final submissions to the Judge (and jury if applicable). This is a summary and the plaintiff’s analysis of all of the evidence and legal arguments presented during the course of the trial
  • the defendant will make their final submissions to the Judge (and jury if applicable). This is a summary and the defendant’s analysis of all of the evidence and legal arguments presented during the course of the trial
  • the Judge will deliver a judgment (the final decision in the case).

What to bring

Bring all documents (originals, if they exist) that have been filed or served which you will rely on, plus a pen and paper for taking notes.

Court Network

Court Network is a non-legal volunteer organisation that provides support for anyone attending Court. The Melbourne office is located on the ground floor of the County Court near the Registry.

Public access

The public can access all courtrooms unless a judge has ordered otherwise. A notice from the Judge will be on the door. School groups and the media regularly attend. If there is a good reason why your case should not be viewed by the general public you should bring this to the attention of the Judge before the trial begins.

Family and friends

You may have a friend or a family member sit with you in the courtroom unless they are a witness in your case and witnesses have been ordered to leave the courtroom. If they are not a witness, this person may also be able to sit with you at the bar table, however you will need to ask the Judge for permission. They will not be able to represent you or speak on your behalf.

If you do not come to Court

If you are a defendant and do not attend the trial, the Judge may make an order that you pay the amount in the plaintiff’s statement of claim and also costs incurred by the plaintiff. If you are unable to attend court due to an emergency, contact the court as soon as possible. If the plaintiff does not appear, the Judge may dismiss the case and order the plaintiff to pay the defendant's costs.

The information on this page relates to proceedings in the Commercial or Common Law Divisions. If your matter is in the Criminal Division, visit our Criminal Division page.

For an explanation of common legal terms and phrases, please see our glossary.

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Page last updated: 16 September 2018