It should always be the goal of attorneys and parties in a domestic matter to resolve things outside of the courtroom; however, when efforts to negotiate fail or where one party needs to seek some form of emergency relief, it may be necessary to access the judicial system in order to get the matter resolved.
The following is a list of do’s and don’ts for parties in the courtroom:
1.ALWAYS DRESS APPROPRIATELY
The courtroom should always be treated as a place of respect. Your clothes should be clean and pressed; but need not be expensive. A two-piece suit with shirt and tie for men is not necessary. However, a nice pair of slacks and a button-down shirt gives the court the impression that the parties are respectful of the Court and intend to take the matter seriously. Likewise, a nice simple dress or slacks and a shirt for women help to make a good appearance. Women should not wear anything too flashy or low-cut. You want people in the courtroom to listen to the words that you are saying, rather than being distracted by what you are wearing. Stay away from excessive make-up or jewelry as well.
2. ADDRESSING THE JUDGE AND OTHERS
Parties must always stand when the Judge comes in the courtroom and when he or she leaves. The Judge will announce when it is permissible to sit down. In most of our family law cases, it is rare for a party who is represented by an attorney to have to respond to the Judge directly, but it can happen. Always refer to the Judge as “Your Honor” and when asked a question directly, try to respond with a “yes ma’am” or “no sir.” The more respect that you can demonstrate in your language to the Court, the better off you are. Unless you are representing yourself Pro Se, never address the Court, opposing counsel or the other party directly. If you are representing yourself Pro Se without an attorney, do not speak over the Court, opposing counsel or the other party. Our proceedings are recorded and the recording cannot pick up multiple voices at one time.
3. COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR ATTORNEY
Show up on time. If you have any questions, ask your attorney those questions before the hearing. Try to avoid whispering to your attorney during the proceedings. You or your attorney can provide a pad and a piece of paper for you to use when you have a question or comment to share with your attorney during the hearing. Your attorney is likely concentrating very hard on what the Court, opposing counsel or the witnesses are saying and it’s difficult to listen to two people talk at the same time.
4. EMOTIONS IN THE COURTROOM
It is understandable that some parties may not be able to contain their emotions during a court proceeding. The issues that we are dealing with are important; however, an excessive display of emotion during a court hearing can be disruptive and detrimental to the impression you are leaving with the Judge and the other parties in the courtroom. Any type of yelling, screaming, stomping your feet, shaking your head, cussing, crying loudly, staring at the other party, mouthing words to anyone in the courtroom, or calling people names during the proceeding will only hurt your case.
5. AFTER THE HEARING
When your court proceeding is concluded, you should continue to maintain the proper courtroom conduct. There are sheriff’s deputies, trial court administrative assistants, court reporters and various other people left in the courtroom after the Judge leaves the bench that may report disruptive conduct by the parties to the Court. There is a time and place to be angry, upset or overjoyed, but the courtroom is not it. Continue to show the upmost respect for the Court until you have left the building.
Remember the Court is watching everything you say and do when you stand before it. It is your responsibility and the responsibility of your attorney to ensure that you make the best impression possible. Whether you win or lose the issue before the Court, the respect that you display during your proceedings will always benefit you in the long run. It is possible that you may see your judge again at some point and he or she will remember your prior conduct.
Hopefully your appearances before the court will be limited; but following these simple rules will insure that you leave the Court with a good impression.
By: Sheryl L. Saavedra