How to Behave in Court
- By: mjgoodwin
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How to Behave in a Courtroom: A Dozen Almost Fool-Proof Tips
By M. J. Goodwin
I have previously written about what attire is appropriate for Court and what is not appropriate for Court. I think it is also helpful to advise people on how to behave in Court. Most of this is not legal advice. Again, it is more akin to common sense advice. But as I see blatantly rude behavior in Court on a regular basis, I hope that this helps alleviate some of it.
So once you have pulled up your pants and removed any obscene language from your clothing, bear the following in mind:
- Be early. Do not be late. Plan to arrive at least twenty (20) minutes before your scheduled court time. The Judge will not wait for you.
- Unless you are on the witness stand, stand up when you speak to the Judge.
- Sit up straight. Do not put your head on the counsel table or lean on your elbows.
- Do not chew gum. Do not eat. Other than the water provided in Court, do not drink. Only sip the water provided in Court.
- Take your hands out of your pockets.
- Address the Judge as “Your Honor”.
- Do not lie. It is a crime to lie under oath. Once you have been caught in a lie by a Judge, he or she will never believe anything else you say.
- Do not talk about irrelevant issues. You are there for a very limited purpose. It is not the time to bring up irrelevant matters. If you don’t know if it’s relevant, rely on your lawyer to tell you.
- Do not use foul language, street language or slang.
- Do not use props. By this, I mean it is unnecessary to take photographs of your children to hold facing the judge or the Bible, to hold in view of the Judge.
- Do not address other litigants directly. If other litigants engage you, do not respond.
- Speak clearly and loudly enough to be heard and understood.
A bonus tip: hire a lawyer if you have to go to Court for any reason. It is folly to go alone. And once you hire a lawyer, follow the legal advice that you paid to get. Do not think that you know more than your lawyer does.
This advice may seem humorous. Perhaps it is. But the Judge you appear before has great power over your life. Do not trivialize the proceeding. You may not like the result.
M. J. Goodwin has practiced law in Anderson, South Carolina since 1991.