If you are required to attend a court hearing, it is not uncommon to experience feelings of anxiety and unease, primarily due to the unfamiliar and potentially intimidating nature of the environment. Nevertheless, it is important to exhibit a composed and calm demeanor throughout the legal proceedings. We have curated a brief list of dos and don’ts to abide by that will help you navigate the courtroom with confidence.
Arrive on time: There are many things that are taken out of your control when you are summoned to appear in court, but one of the things that you are able to control is your timeliness for the hearing. Being late is seen as a sign of disrespect towards the judge, jury, court staff, opposing counsel, and the entire process. Sometimes you might find yourself delayed due to no fault of your own, and if you find yourself in this situation be sure to alert the court as soon as possible.
Act respectful: When you are inside a courtroom you are expected to act with a certain level of decorum due to the serious nature of the proceedings. The judge will expect you and your legal team to respect them and their authority in the court. Some examples of things to do in the court room are:
- Stand when the judge enters the room
- Ask permission before speaking directly to the judge
- Refer to the judge as your honor
- Refrain from using profane or inappropriate language when speaking in court.
Follow instructions: Each courthouse will have a basic set of instructions about what is and isn’t allowed to go inside of the courthouse. Additionally, each judge will have particular rules for their own courtrooms. It is important that you follow these rules and not ignore them, because directly ignoring the judge’s rules could potentially lead to you being charged with contempt of court.
Make faces/expressions: It is inappropriate to start to make facial expressions or body language as a reaction to something that you do not like happening in the courtroom. When you are in the courtroom you will be seated in front of the judge, and they will be able to see how you are reacting to various portions of the proceedings. It can come off as very disrespectful to the judge and the entire process when you make faces or have negative body language as a reaction to hearing something that you do not like or agree with.
Interrupt: Sticking with the theme of respecting the various parties involved in the courtroom, you should refrain from interrupting people when they are speaking. Whether it be the judge, opposing counsel, or even your own attorney, you should refrain from making out of line comments and interrupting when someone else is speaking to the court.
Be afraid to ask questions: It can be a very confusing situation and you might not completely understand everything that is going on during the proceedings. You should never be afraid to ask questions or clarify something that you do not know. It is normal for you to not understand everything that is going on during the proceedings, because it is not something that you normally do or are familiar with.
What to Wear
Additionally, one of the important things to consider when going to court is how to dress for the occasion. While the time in the courtroom will be spent discussing and resolving substantive issues, the way that you present yourself to the court is an important aspect of courtroom etiquette. We have included some tips regarding dressing for court below:
- A nice pair of pants (if belt loops are present it is best to wear a belt)
- A button-down, collared shirt preferably with a tie, but it is not necessary (a polo may be appropriate as well, depending on the type of hearing)
- Jacket or blazer if you have one
- Shoes with socks
- Dress pants or skirt (?)
- A blouse, sweater, or dress shirt
- A business casual dress
- Nice shoes
What not to wear to court:
- Ripped or holey jeans (or jeans at all if possible)
- Low-cut or low ride pants (nothing that reveals underwear)
- A miniskirt
- Tank tops (specifically spaghetti-strapped tops)
- Crop tops
- Sweatpants or lounge pants
- Hoodies or sweatshirts
- Exercise or loungewear
- Baseball caps or other hats
- Clothing with inappropriate words or emblems
Preparing for Trial
There is a lot to keep track of if you are headed to court, which is one reason why McDivitt Law Firm created its McDivitt Trial Academy. Not only do our trial attorneys use this cutting-edge, true-to-scale mock courtroom to train for courtroom proceedings, but it allows our clients the chance to practice what it’s like to go to court and be at a trial. McDivitt trial attorneys make sure they and their clients are never unprepared.