A change in how parties and lawyers should introduce themselves in court

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Providing a forum of justice that is impartial, fair, consistent, and assures equal access for everyone is part of the mission of the Provincial Court of British Columbia. According people dignity and respect by using their correct titles and pronouns is one aspect of such a forum. To help judicial officers, lawyers, and litigants do this, the Court has issued a Notice to the Profession and Public to clarify how parties and lawyers can advise judicial officers and other parties and lawyers of their pronouns and form of address: see “Form of Address for Parties and Lawyers: NP 24”.

Some lawyers and parties already volunteer this information. In the new Notice NP24, the Court is moving to an inclusive process where everyone who comes before the Court provides this information.

New Procedure

Until now, when parties, or a lawyer, spoke in court they started by introducing themselves and spelling their last name. For example:

“My name is Jane Lee, spelled L-E-E. I am the lawyer for Joe Carter.”

In the new Notice, the Court is asking people to state their name, title (sometimes called “salutation”), and pronouns to be used in the proceeding, and for lawyers to provide this information for their clients. For example:

“My name is Ms. Jane Lee, spelled L-E-E. I use she/her pronouns. I am the lawyer for Mx. Joe Carter who uses they/them pronouns”.

(“Mx.” is pronounced like the word “mix” and is a gender-neutral title/salutation.)

If a party or lawyer does not provide this information in their introduction, they will be prompted by a court clerk to do so. For instance, the court clerk may say “For the record, I would ask counsel for the applicant to introduce themselves and their client, including their pronouns and title such as “Ms., Mr., Mx., or Counsel”.”

For some proceedings, such as criminal pre-trial conferences, there may not be a court clerk. In that case, the party or lawyer may be prompted by the judge or justice to provide this information.

Why is this information important?

This information is important to:

• improve experiences within the legal system for gender diverse parties and lawyers

• identify correct pronouns and forms of address by adopting one practice that applies equally to all

• avoid lawyers or parties having to raise the issue only after incorrect titles or pronouns are used

• support a shift in professional practice towards asking all people how they should be respectfully addressed, acknowledging that this should not be assumed based on name, appearance or voice

Using incorrect gendered language for a party or lawyer in court can cause uncomfortable tension and distract them from the proceedings that all participants should be free to concentrate on. The Court hopes its new Notice will contribute to a culture that is inclusive and respectful of everyone.

The Provincial Court would like to thank the executive of the CBABC’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Committee (SOGIC) section for their helpful feedback on this new Notice.

Further reading

• BC Court of Appeal Appearing before the Court Practice Direction
• BC Supreme Court Forms of Address for Parties and Counsel in Proceedings Practice Direction