How to Act in Court
Being in a courtroom can be very intimidating no matter what your role is – lawyer, defendant, plaintiff, witness, juror or spectator. Follow these guidelines and you will be on your way to perfect court etiquette in no time!
Take a Deep Breath
You are expected to be nervous. In fact, being nervous about going to court is a good thing. It shows that you understand the seriousness of the situation. Don’t be too nervous, though. Take a deep breath and remember that people go to court everyday. Some people – judges and lawyers – have dedicated their lives to being in the courtroom. You will be fine.
Follow these guidelines and you will be on your way to perfect court etiquette in no time!
The courtroom is a professional setting. As such, you should always act professionally when in court. This also includes dressing conservatively. See my earlier blog post, “Top 5 Tips for How to Dress in Court,” for more advice on proper court attire.
Be Polite and Respectful
Nothing looks worse in court than when someone is rude and impolite. It can also affect the outcome of your case. Be polite and respectful to everyone you come into contact with at court – the judge, the other side’s lawyer, the jurors, witnesses, etc. You should always be on your best behavior when going to court.
Keep still when seated and when standing before a judge. Even if you’re extremely nervous on the inside, staying still will give others the appearance that you are calm.
Stay focused on what is happening in the courtroom. Even when you’re not being questioned, you should be paying attention. The situation was obviously serious enough to go to court, so you should treat it as such.
Take Your Time
Make sure that you fully understand what is being said to you or what you are being asked. If you don’t hear or understand a question, ask for it to be repeated. Don’t just rush and give an answer you’re unsure of because of nerves. Remember that you are under oath and have an obligation to be honest.
Speak Slowly and Clearly
When speaking in court, be sure to do so slowly and clearly. Also, make sure that your answers are loud enough to be heard. All of these things will make you appear confident, even if you aren’t.
Remember the Judge
When the judge enters the courtroom, you must stand up and wait until he or she tells you that you can be seated. Always address the judge as “Your Honor” and stand when talking to him or her. If you are unsure or feel pressured when being questioned, look to the judge for help. It is his or her job to oversee the trial.
- Be late – Being prompt shows respect for the justice system. Being late makes a terrible first impression.
- Use your cell phone – Turn it off. Even better, don’t bring it into court at all. You won’t need it.
- Chew gum – It’s a distraction to those trying to concentrate around you.
- Talk to others – Do not discuss the case or talk while court is in session. It is distracting and just plain disrespectful.
- Read, do personal work or listen to music – Court is neither the time nor place to do activities like this. You should be focused and listening at all times.
- Interrupt – Even if you are just itching to say something, wait until the appropriate time to do so. You won’t get bonus points for cutting someone off and making your point first.
- Make wisecracks – No one in the courtroom will appreciate any wise remarks.
- Make jokes – There is nothing funny about being in a courtroom.
- Make faces or roll your eyes – These are just as rude as shouting things out. Keep your expression blank at all times.
- Make inappropriate noises – No comment needed.
Above All: Be Honest!
Most importantly, always be completely honest in the answers you give in court. You are under oath and therefore have a duty to be truthful. If you do lie in court, chances are you will be found out. You will also lose your credibility and that can really damage your case.
For more advice on courtroom etiquette, or to speak to an experienced injury lawyer, contact me today.