Many of you have seen our entertaining videos about what NOT to wear when you are appearing in court. (If you missed them you can catch them here.) However, we would like to expand on that thought and cover more than just your wardrobe here.
This does not mean business casual necessarily, but it does mean dressing your best and making sure you look like a productive member of society. It’s a first impression, and it matters as much as all the other first impressions in your life. Tattoos should be covered and piercing should be removed. Women may wear jewelry, but men should not, outside of a ring. Women should wear clothing that covers arms and cleavage, and skirts should be at least knee length. Jeans, if worn, should be “dress jeans,” meaning they fit properly, don’t sag, and don’t have any holes or distressed features.
Be on Time
Judges and attorneys have full days. Depending on your case, they might spend all day trying your case, or if it’s quick, they’ll have other cases scheduled for later in the day. You don’t want to hold them all up with your tardiness. If your court appointment is towards the end of the day, remember that everyone wants to get the matter settled as quickly and efficiently as possible so the Courthouse can close on time.
Be Polite and Respectful
Failing to show the proper respect to the judge and the court comes with consequences. Not only can a disrespectful attitude influence the judge against you, but also you can end up in jail for contempt of court.
There’s nothing more frustrating than telling someone what to do and having them do the opposite. Instructions will be given at the beginning of the court’s proceedings. Again, be on time to make sure you receive all the proper instructions, and you must listen carefully so you can do what’s expected of you, thus helping the case move along as quickly as possible.
Know your case inside and out. Know the strengths and weaknesses of the case, as well as the best way to present them. Know exactly what you’re going to say to the judge, especially your opening statement, which is another first impression and one you cannot afford to waste.
Get an attorney
Ideally, you should hire an attorney to represent you in court. They know how the court system works and the best way to get you what you need. They worked long and hard to get and maintain their law degree, so don’t take it for granted.
Watch Your Language
Avoid slang, curse words, sarcasm, accusations, etc. It’s unprofessional and disrespectful and is not likely to incline the judge in your favor.
Stick to the Facts
The judge’s job is to rule on the facts of the case, so stick to the facts. Don’t use weak words or phrases like, “I thought they were” or “they seemed to be.” Just tell the judge what happened in a matter-of-fact way, with as little emotion as possible. If you have trouble speaking about the topic without emotion, consider hiring an attorney to speak for you in court.
Don’t argue with the other litigants, with the opposing counsel, with your own attorney, and most importantly, never argue with the judge. Their job is to measure the strengths and weaknesses of each side based on the facts of the case and reach a conclusion accordingly. You will have your turn to present your side of the story. Use it wisely and don’t ever speak out of turn.
Approach the Judge’s Bench Without Permission
Unless asked to do so. If you have papers or exhibits to give to the judge, give them to the bailiff or the court officer, who will then give them to the judge. If providing papers, make sure you have a copy for yourself and a copy for the other side.
A calm, unemotional demeanor is essential in court. Things like rolling your eyes and shaking your head will be viewed as disrespectful and may negatively impact your credibility.
The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests.