7 Tips When Going to Court

Written by on January 7, 2014 in Court

As family law attorneys, we are often in court with our clients.  Therefore, part of our job consists of preparing our clients for their courtroom conduct (i.e., how to dress, conduct themselves, when to speak, etc.)  Below are some of the pointers we discuss with our clients.   Note: This list is by no means exhaustive and every courtroom has its own rules and preferences which you should research prior to your appearance.

(1)    Do not EVER interrupt the judge, opposing counsel, or opposing party:

We know how important it is to tell your side of the story to the Court – particularly when the other side has given the Court false information.   Know that the Court will give you an opportunity to respond, and if it does not, just ask the Court if you can respond to what was said.   Just be sure not to interrupt the judge, opposing party, or counsel.

Remember, most Courtrooms have Court Reporters transcribing all that is being said.  And, Court Reporters will be unable to accurately transcribe what is being said if two people are talking at the same time.  Accordingly, not only is it polite, but necessary for accurate record keeping for you not to interrupt the other side.

(2)    No one is Handing out Oscars at the Hearing – Tone down the dramatics:

We can appreciate how frustrating it is to hear the other side make accusations against you.  However, you should NOT roll your eyes and throw your arms up in exasperation.   The Judge will not be swayed by this conduct.  If it appears that things are not going your way, do not act annoyed (e.g., huff and puff, or prematurely pack your bag).  Similarly, do not gloat (“YEAH! I told you I would win.”) if things do go your way.  Rather, remain respectful and cordial at all times.

(3)    Address Judges Appropriately:

When speaking to the Judge, refer to them as either “Your Honor” or “The Court.”  You should not refer to the Judge as “Sir” or “Ma’am.”

(4)     Appropriate Courtroom Attire:

We often recommend that our clients dress business-casual for Court (e.g., slacks, button down shirt, knee length (or longer) skirt for women, etc.).  If at all possible, avoid wearing jeans, t-shirts, shorts, or flip-flops.  Also, know that if you are wearing a hat or have sunglasses on your head, the bailiffs will require you to remove them.

(5)    Absolute No No’s:

You cannot bring food, beverages (some Courtrooms allow water), chew gum, or eat candy in Court.  Similarly, you cannot talk on your phone, send text messages, check email or browse on your smart phone while in Court.   If you need to make a phone call or send a text message, tell the bailiff that you are stepping out of the Courtroom for a moment.  Otherwise, sit and relax before your case is called.

(6)    Assume you will be in Court all day:

Even if your hearing will only take a few minutes, you may be there all day depending on the Court’s calendar.  It is best to reschedule all your appointments, arrange for carpool, child care, etc. for days you have court.

(7)    Be Polite and respectful to all the Court’s staff:

The Court’s calendar is very full and the staff has a lot to juggle each day.  Courtesy and patience will help everyone get through the day more smoothly.

If you have any questions on Courtroom conduct, you should speak to an attorney.  Good luck!

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