How to Behave in Court
What you wear, how you speak, and even your body language can affect how people judge you. Nowhere is this truer than in a Courtroom. It doesn’t matter if you’re in front of a judge because of a traffic violation, a family issue, a disability case, or a felony offense, if you are the plaintiff, the defendant, or a witness. The Courtroom is an important, serious place, and your respect for it should be demonstrated through your clothing, actions, and words. At Mulligan Epstein Attorneys, we regularly advise our clients on courtroom etiquette in order to help their case. Below are some of our tips—we hope they help you, too!
Arrive early and be prepared. Yes, you may have to sit and wait, but that’s far better than arriving late. Timeliness is a basic courtesy and shows that you respect the judge’s and the Court’s time. As for preparations, your attorney can help you prepare for your specific case, giving you a better chance at the best possible outcome.
Wear business clothing. This means long pants—avoid shorts, track pants, and short skirts. A good rule of thumb is to dress as if you were going to an important job interview. Make sure your hair is combed and, if you have facial hair, shave or trim it in order to look as neat and clean as possible. If you have tattoos, do your best to keep them covered. If you have piercings, temporarily remove them. Choose conservative clothing and subdued prints that are appropriate to the seriousness of the occasion.
Remove your hat. Unless you have a religious exception, it’s viewed as disrespectful to wear a hat indoors, let alone in a courtroom.
No eating or drinking allowed. Neither snacks nor beverages are allowed in the courtroom. Even chewing gum can be seen as a sign of disrespect, especially while speaking to the Judge. Make sure you wake up early enough before your court appointment to have breakfast and coffee, so that you’ll be alert and able to focus.
Turn your phone off. Most Courtrooms don’t allow phones at all. If the Courtroom you are in does permit them, simply turn it off to avoid checking it at the wrong time or, worse, interrupting the proceedings with a shrill ringtone. Even a vibrating phone can be loud and disruptive in the Courtroom, so don’t risk it. Some Judges will confiscate a ringing phone.
Rise immediately when the judge enters or leaves. The Judge isn’t just in charge of the courtroom—he or she represents the law, and holds your fate in his or her hands. Stand when the Judge enters or leaves, remain silent, and pay attention to everything the Judge does and says.
Remember to say “Your Honor.” This isn’t an episode of Judge Judy. “Your Honor” is the traditional and correct term to use when speaking directly to the Judge. While you’re at it, refer to everyone in the courtroom as Mr. or Ms. as a sign of respect.
Speak only when instructed to by your Attorney. Depending on your situation, you may be tempted to jump in, either to correct someone’s story or defend yourself. Don’t do this! The Courtroom follows a very strict set of rules, and you’ll have your chance to speak. Wait for it.
If you follow these tips, you’ll be well on your way to making the right impression in the Courtroom, earning the respect of the Judge and jury, and improving your case. For more legal tips, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. If you expect to find yourself in Court any time soon, schedule a consultation with Mulligan Epstein. Together we’ll ensure your case is as strong as possible, inside and out.