The Theatre of the Court Room

 

More frequent hours have been spent recently at the law courts and something about the formalities and order have come upon me as quite beautiful. What I had previously put aside as boring and dry has strangely taken on a new meaning. It's funny how realisations come when they do. I've had exposure to this environment for many years, but these thoughts are relatively newfound. It dawned upon me that not everyone gets to see what I see so today, I'll be your eyes in the courtroom.

- Reflections from 20 July 2015

As I sit in the courtroom I notice the court etiquette and language used in tones of honour.

Before a court goes into session, there is a short flurry of preparation. The judge's associate comes in to prepare the desk with material, books, legislation, appearances and makes sure the judge's chair is in a good position for them to be seated. The counsel at the bar table sit facing the judge, and also get ready. When the agreed commencement time comes, the judge is "knocked in" from their chambers. Three distinct knocks on the door with the Officer's announcement, "All stand, the Federal Court of Australia is now in session."

The whole court room rises to their feet as the judge's procession enters, and we bow.

As if it were MAJESTY.

And the language of the court is laden with respect and honour. 

For instance, as they address the judge: "Yes, Your Honour"; "If Your Honour pleases."
We use capitalisation in honorification of their title: "Her Honour", "His Honour", "Their Honours".
When parties address the judge, they are to stand up to speak and the lack of doing so is regarded as highly disrespectful. To enter or leave a court in session, one must quietly bow to the judge at the entrance. 

As the judge makes Directions, Orders, Rulings and Judgments, these are accepted as passed and received - to which counsel reply, "As Your Honour pleases" or "May it please the court".

On occasion, when self-represented parties are without a lawyer, they are often unaware of court etiquette. All this to say that there are expected norms of behaviour and language that are accepted amongst this legal community. It was commonplace - a standard that didn't have to be enforced, everyone who was involved already knew. They had been taught and were learned in it together.

There is order in the court - ORDER as opposed to chaos/disorder. A peace - a stability - an arranged set of rules and procedure. The very nature of the process makes it an advantage for those who are in the KNOW - counsel refer to their adversaries as 'my LEARNED friend'.

There is beauty in order; a grandeur in honour.

And I couldn't help but think that God made this order. Order in the family, order in the church, order in the society under authorities. In the beginning, before sin, there was perfected and untainted order. And this beautiful design of courtroom theatrics seemed to model the courts of our heavenly King. Except that God's glory and majesty was so much greater, beyond imaginable.

I thought also: God deserves this kind of honour and exaltation magnified, but not everyone is aware. Not everyone knows it just yet. Like how only those who have been involved in the legal process know the extent of dignity and honour given to a judge. And like how I needed to spend more time in their presence to gain such insight. 

 

 Counsel at bar table

Counsel at bar table

 Justices sit elevated on bench

Justices sit elevated on bench

 Aerial view of the court room ceremony. Picture credit:  here

Aerial view of the court room ceremony. Picture credit: here

Photography isn't usually allowed here so online images should suffice. This is the largest room in the Federal Court (appears to be a conference or special occasion - it's not usually so full).