Basic Information About Going to Court
Maybe you filed a lawsuit, or someone filed a lawsuit against you, or you have been asked to be a witness in a trial. Maybe you need to file papers with the court clerk. Going to court can be stressful. Here is some general information to help you get ready.
If your hearing is in a courtroom in front of a judge, dress to impress. Think about how you dress for a job interview, wedding, funeral, or to visit a place of worship. Wear clean clothes, and avoid clothing with graphics, advertisements, slogans, insults, or foul language. You want the judge to focus on what you are saying, and not what you’re wearing.
Some courts have extra rules about how to dress. Visit your local court’s webpage for more information.
No. You can’t bring any weapons into an Oregon court building, even if you have a concealed weapons permit. If you bring a firearm to court on purpose, you can be charged with a Class C felony.
Many courts have a security check at the entrance, like at an airport. Staff will search purses, backpacks and briefcases. Security may consider pocket knives, box cutters, pepper spray, knitting/crochet needles and scissors to be weapons and will take them away, or they will ask you to leave the courthouse.
A court hearing is a time assigned to you to talk with a judge about your case. You have a chance to tell your side of the story and what you want. The judge is there to listen to you and to the other side, and then decide what to do based on facts.
Some court hearings will be over the phone or online through a video meeting, and some hearings will be at a courthouse. Read your notice to find out if your hearing is in person or by phone or online.
If your hearing is in person, your hearing notice should provide the address of the courthouse. If the notice doesn’t provide an address, you can find court addresses here. Some counties have more than one courthouse, so make sure you know which one to go to. If you’re not sure, call the court to confirm.
If your hearing is by phone or online, read your hearing notice for instructions on how to call in or join the online video hearing. Find more information on remote hearings here.
It depends! Read your hearing notice carefully.
Many different cases can be scheduled for the same time as your hearing. For example, you might have a hearing at 9 a.m., and when you arrive, 10 other people are waiting to have a hearing at the same time. Some judges will quickly check in with everyone before starting the hearings, but others may not. You may have to wait a while for other cases to finish before you get to talk to the judge.
Even if there are other cases scheduled for the same time, you must be on time. If you’re not on time, you could lose your case and your chance to participate. If you have questions about your hearing, call your court. You can ask about the reason for the hearing, and how long the hearing will take.
Let your workplace know that you will be gone and give yourself extra time before and after your court appearance.
Arrive early for your hearing. Give yourself extra time to:
- Park or use public transit,
- Get through security screening, and
- Find your courtroom.
Some courthouses offer onsite child care, but most do not. Check with your local court.
It is best to have a plan for child care. Sometimes a hearing can start late or take longer than expected. If you have a hearing with a judge, assume that it will take longer, and plan for child care with extra time before and after the hearing.
If you need help to use court services, you can ask for a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A reasonable accommodation is a change in a rule or the usual way of doing things so that a person with disabilities can access services.
Fill out the Request for ADA Accommodations form and give it or mail it to your court’s ADA Coordinator. If you need an accommodation for a hearing or trial, you should ask as soon as possible, and not less than four business days before your court date.
Courts must provide an interpreter for free for you to talk with court staff or at your court hearing. Courts do not provide translation for judgments or court records.
If you call or visit the courthouse to file papers or get information about your case, court staff can arrange for an interpreter to translate over the phone. You do not need to ask for this ahead of time.
If you need an interpreter at a hearing, you should let the court know before the hearing. You can fill out a Request an Interpreter form, or call the court listed on your notice before the hearing to let them know.
The court will contact you by mail, email or text message if you need to come back to court. Court staff will give you the date, time, and place of the hearing. It is very important to update the court if your contact information changes. You can also check the court records online to see if there is anything scheduled in your case.
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