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Court Etiquette in South Australia

Courts in South Australia have rules of etiquette to which all people in attendance, from legal professionals to community members, should adhere. This strict standard of behaviour reflects the seriousness of the courtrooms and the necessary respect for the law, the magistrate or judge (the judicial officers) and the court itself.

To maintain the dignity of the courts in South Australia, you are expected to act appropriately at all times. The judicial officers may ask you to leave if you do not meet the required standard of dress, etiquette or behaviour. Where your behaviour interferes with the court proceedings, judicial officers may even fine you or send you to prison.

Preparation for court

Rules of Court Etiquette in South Australia

You should familiarise yourself with the court system in South Australia before attending your proceeding as courthouses and their rules and processes can be difficult to navigate. This will ensure you know what to expect, and how to dress and behave appropriately.

The South Australian Courts website explains the functions and locations of the Magistrates, District and Supreme Courts. You can also find information on appropriate court etiquette in South Australia.

One of the best ways to understand the procedures and court etiquette in South Australia is to attend and observe a court proceeding before you attend your own. If you do, you may sit in the public seating area located in the back of the courtroom.

You can find the date, time, and courtroom for all matters to be heard on that day on the daily case lists published on the South Australian Courts website. Some cases, however, are not open to the public to attend. You should check with registry staff or the Sheriff’s Officer at the court whether or not you are allowed to observe a particular matter.

General rules of court etiquette in South Australia

The general rules of court etiquette in South Australia apply to all who enter the courtroom.

You must:

  • switch off your mobile phone – do not just change it to silent
  • switch off any alarms on your watch or any pagers.

You must not:

  • talk unless called upon to speak by the judicial officer
  • eat, drink or chew gum
  • smoke
  • record or publish any parts of the proceeding.

Court etiquette towards the judicial officers

The judicial officer is in charge and sits at the front facing the rest of the courtroom.  Everyone in the courtroom must be respectful to the judicial officer by:

  • addressing the judicial officer as ‘Your Honour’
  • nodding their head at the judicial officer when entering or exiting the courtroom
  • standing quietly whenever the judicial officer enters or exits the courtroom
  • standing whenever the judicial officer speaks to them
  • paying attention and adhering to any directions given by the judicial officer.

Dress etiquette

As a matter of court etiquette in South Australia, you will need to dress in a neat, modest, and smart manner to show your respect at court.

Dress attire that is appropriate includes:

  • conservative coloured clothing such as black, white and navy
  • a suit (though not essential)
  • collared button up shirt (ensure it is buttoned appropriately)
  • pants or a knee-length skirt
  • clean closed toe shoes
  • if representing yourself, you should wear a jacket.

Dress that is inappropriate includes:

  • sleeveless, strapless or see-through tops
  • clothing with disrespectful, obscene, or offensive slogans or images
  • jeans
  • mini skirts or short shorts
  • thongs
  • sunglasses
  • hats or caps.

If you are dressed inappropriately, the judicial officer may admonish you or ask you to leave.

Entering the court

Before you attend court, make sure you arrive early for your court proceeding. Once you are at the courthouse, you can find the courtroom for your matter on the notice boards or television screens in the court foyer, or ask the Sheriff’s Officer.

If you are being held in custody, the Sheriff’s Officer will bring you to the correct courtroom.

As you enter the courtroom, you should stop at the doorway and nod your head at the Coat of Arms behind the judicial officer as a show of respect. You may then proceed to your seat.

In the courtroom

When in the courtroom, court etiquette in South Australia requires you to maintain an appropriate standard of behaviour and dress.

You should wait in the public seating area located in the back of the courtroom until your matter has been called.

In a civil matter, the plaintiff (whoever is bringing the matter to court) sits on the right side of the Bar Table. The defendant (whoever is responding to the matter) sits on the left side of the Bar Table.

While you may represent yourself at court, it can be a daunting experience and may have serious consequences. It is always advisable to seek legal advice.

Exiting the court

As with entering the court, it is a rule of court etiquette in South Australian courts to nod your head at the Coat of Arms behind the judicial officer when exiting the court as a show of respect.

Further assistance

If you have queries about court etiquette, you can ask court staff.

If you are an adult victim of crime in South Australia, you may also seek help from support services such as Victim Support Service.

If you need further legal advice, call Go To Court Lawyers on 1300 636 846 or request a call-back at

This article reflects the state of the law as at 7 January 2016. It is intended to be of a general nature only and does not constitute legal advice. If you require legal assistance, please telephone 1300 636 846 or request a consultation at


Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is one of our Legal Practice Directors and the National Practice Manager. She holds a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master’s in Criminology. Michelle has had a varied career, working in commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. Michelle joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2011. She now supervises a team of over 80 solicitors across Australia.

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