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Courtroom Etiquette

If your case does end up in front of a judge, it’s critical that you put your best foot forward. Your appearance, attitude and conduct can be just as important as your testimony. Below are some suggestions for your time in court:

1) Dress appropriately. This is #1 on the list because it’s very important and often overlooked. In my opinion, it’s never a bad idea to wear a suit to court. Your attorney’s not going to show up in jeans and a t-shirt, so why should you? If you don’t own a suit, try to appear as professional as possible. Although this should be common sense, for some reason people frequently show up in dirty clothes, baseball caps and tank tops. Dressing appropriately shows respect for the court and lets the judge know that you take your case seriously.

2) Address the judge as “your honor” or “judge.”

3) Turn off your cell phone. A ringing cell phone can disrupt the proceedings. Some judges will even hold you in contempt if your phone rings, which can mean a fine or jail time. For almost everyone, court will be the most important thing you do that day. Turn your phone off before entering the courtroom and check your messages after court or during a break.

4) Don’t interrupt the judge. If the judge is speaking to you or asking a question, always allow him or her to finish before you respond. Remember, the judge is the boss of the courtroom and cannot lose control.

5) Don’t argue with the judge. If the judge misunderstands the facts or the issue it’s important to attempt to clarify your point, but do so in a way that shows respect for the judge and his position.

6) Remain calm and in control of your emotions. If you’re testifying and genuinely can’t hold back some tears, that’s ok; it happens all the time. But shouting, making threats or throwing things is never acceptable behavior in the courtroom.

7) Be on time. If you’re late, the judge may dismiss your case. Be sure to allow extra time for parking and to get through security.

8 ) Respect the courtroom personnel. The clerk, deputy and others deal with many people every day, and their jobs are critical in making the justice system operate as smoothly as possible.

9) Use common sense. And if you just can’t figure out what to do, ask someone in a suit.