Courtroom etiquette makes an impact. Raymond Babbitt never missed an episode of People’s Court, and we know you wish you could say the same.
What better way to spend the long, hot days of summer than watching court programs for hours through those endless afternoons? We can’t think of one. If you (or someone you know) is an avid watcher of courtroom television, then you’ll know the fan base varies greatly when it comes to a consensus on the best judge. Personally, Judge Judy and Judge Wapner are our favorites, but that’s neither here nor there.
The one thing everyone can agree on is that some of the people who make their courtroom appearances act absolutely ridiculous. While you may or may not be sure that the people on television are real, we can tell you as attorneys, we indeed have seen it all in the courtroom. Courtroom etiquette makes an impact.
With that in mind, we’re going to talk about proper courtroom etiquette to make the best impression on the judge and others, just in case you ever find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of facing Judge Judy.
Did you know? People that make a more professional and positive impression on the judge are more likely to receive a lighter sentence. Etiquette in the courtroom can make a difference.
So, let’s talk about how to make yourself into the best possible image for courtroom etiquette before appearing in front of a judge.
- Do your research – it is always a good idea to research the judge before you are facing them in court. It’s helpful to know the legal precedent of your case, how the judge favors ruling, how long they’ve sat on the bench and anything else you can find out.
- Be prepared – know that you’ll have to go through security and that the process will be long and time-consuming. Take the day off work, find a babysitter, leave your pocket knife at home, and put yourself in the mental space to behave appropriately regardless of the outcome.
- Dress appropriately – you should be dressing in business professional clothing. For men, this would be a suit and tie. For women, this should be a pantsuit or a skirt that hits past the knee and no exposed shoulders. The collar should not fall below three fingers widths from the clavicle — to measure this hold your pointer, middle, and ring finger together, point them sideways, and place the side of your pointer finger up against the notch in your collar bone. Your shirt collar should touch the side of your ring finger. Dress shoes are required for both parties, and high heels should not exceed three inches. Absolutely no open-toed shoes. If you need inspiration or are confused, research some of your favorite congressmen, congresswomen, or presidential candidates and mimic their outfits. If you don’t own any of these types of clothes, you should know these clothes can be expensive. Don’t let that stop you from dressing appropriately. Instead, visit your local thrift shops and find pieces that are appropriate with a less expensive price tag. The clothes may not fit perfectly, but the effort will be noticed and taken into consideration by the judge.
- Punctuality – when it comes to court, being on time is considered late. Be sure to bring a book and be to your appointment at least 15 minutes ahead of time.
- Practice your manners – now is the time to use every single manner that your mama taught you. Be polite to everyone you see, from the janitor to the judge. Always address the judge as “your honor,” don’t speak unless spoken to, stand when speaking or when the judge stands, and never talk across the aisle to the plaintiff.
- Be aware of body language – research positive, professional body language such as planting both feet on the floor and folding your hands in your lap instead of crossing your arms. Be aware of any nervous ticks you may have like nail biting or hair twisting. Portray your confidence and innocence through the use of your body language as well as your verbal communication by avoiding fidgeting, maintaining eye contact, and using open palms.
This is the best, tried-and-true advice we could give anyone who would ever need to step into a courthouse, regardless of whether they’re going to trial. If you can’t remember all of those, just remember to keep quiet, be respectful, and don’t make a scene.
If you do find yourself facing the inside of a courthouse and aren’t sure what to do, call Dutko Law to represent you! We are a professional, knowledgeable, experienced, open-minded, and talented law firm dedicated to our clients. Contact us today for a free consultation.