Your Conduct in Court Can Affect Your Case
Your conduct in court can make a big impression on both the judge and jurors, so it pays to know how you are expected to act and observe the proper procedures and decorum while in the courtroom. If you are conducting your own case, judges will often make an effort to simplify things and forgive minor errors, but it's always a good idea to put your best foot forward.
Tips for Conducting Yourself While in Court
Here are some of the most basic and universal rules about how you should conduct yourself in court:
- Be on time, be prepared, be courteous and be respectful.
- Dress professionally.
- Speak loudly and clearly.
- Always call the judge "your honor", do not use their name, even their full name, or something more casual like "Judge Johnson" unless they specifically request you to.
- Never, ever interrupt the judge while he or she is speaking.
- Never, ever argue with the judge.
- Stand while addressing the judge.
- Always answer the judge clearly and concisely, do not even give the appearance of being evasive when answering the judge.
- Only interrupt your opponent to make a legal objection, otherwise let them speak - you'll get your turn.
- If you think a witness is lying, do not interrupt. You will get a chance to cross-examine them and then you can ask questions to elicit their lie.
- Do not talk to the judge or jury without the other party present (generally "ex parte" communication -- communication without the other party present -- is prohibited).
- Research the rules specific to the court you will be in before your trial (the clerk can point you towards your specific court's rules).
Attend a Trial
Finally, one of the best ways to learn about conduct in court is to attend a trial. Most trials are open to the public, and watching how the parties interact and the general flow of a trial can be very useful. If you can, find a trial that your judge is hearing to sit in on.