Now that you’ve got your court appearance date and you’ve learned what to wear (and what NOT to wear) for the appearance, next up is how to behave when you are actually in the courtroom.
Before your hearing or trial starts:
- Allow plenty of time to arrive at the courthouse before your hearing/trial begins. This will allow you to find a parking spot (if needed), go through the security procedures, and give you an opportunity to settle your nerves, if you need to.
- Find out where your courtroom is. Most court buildings have more than one actual courtroom, and finding your actual room may be daunting for someone who has never been in the building before.
- With your left-over-buffer time, review your records, notes, etc,, discuss your case with your attorney (if you have one), and wait for your case to be called
During your hearing or trial:
- If you have an attorney, follow his/her instructions!
- Remember the cliché, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” You’re dressed appropriately (see the two previous blogs), now look like the person you dressed to be.
- Don’t chew gum or have any food in the courtroom.
- Don’t jingle things in your pocket. In fact, remove “jingly” things such as coins, keys, etc., to prevent them from jingling at all!
- Have a pad of paper and a pen with you to take notes and communicate with your attorney, but DON’T doodle!
- Don’t slouch. Sit with good posture. Show that your appearance reflects your body language!
- Be polite and show respect to all courtroom personnel: the judge, the bailiff, the court clerk, the stenographer, etc.
- At a minimum, be civil to the opposing party. Now is NOT the time to make faces or hand gestures, roll your eyeballs or use any other negative body language.
- When called on to speak, explain your side of the controversy as clearly as you can.
- Address the judge as “Your Honor.”
- Address other court personnel by their titles or Mr./Ms and their last names.
- Listen to the questions by the judge and/or attorneys completely before responding, and if you don’t understand their questions, inform them, so they can clarify.
- Do not use foul language, swear words, and/or demeaning words (such as racist or sexist terms).
- Remember, this is your case and your life in this courtroom! Show how involved you are with your case! Don’t laugh, talk out of turn, look bored, or use any other disruptive behavior.