By Jim “Pappy” Moore
If you ever have to be in a court for any reason, may I make a few suggestions regarding your behavior there? First, and most importantly, do not ever be disrespectful to the Judge, the Clerk, the Bailiff, or anyone else on the Judge’s staff. Second, do not ever – and I do mean EVER – interrupt the Judge while he or she is talking. No one has ever changed the mind of a Judge by interrupting said Judge. Are you clear on these points? If not reread them as many times as necessary to get it down.
If you are going to court, dress like you are going to an important meeting or event. Dress UP not Down. Do not wear shorts. Do not dress like you are going to a nightclub dancing. Wear Sunday clothes if you have them. Nice, clean work clothes are acceptable. Wear clean clothes.
Do not talk to other people in the courtroom while the Judge is talking, or when the attorneys are talking, or when witnesses are talking. If you do, you may find a Bailiff leaning over and giving you a loud and obvious “SHHHH” to be quiet.
Pay attention to the events. If you are there for a case, your case may be called. If you are there as a witness, you may be called to the front to be sworn in, and then asked to go out into the hall and not talk about your matter to anyone. If so, do it. Do not start talking about your matter. If you do, you could get in big trouble for talking in front of a juror or such. Simply put, follow your instructions and zip it about the matter you are there for.
Arrive early. Anticipate that parking may be a problem, or that navigating the courthouse may take time, or that there may be a line getting into the courthouse, or that elevators may be full.
If you expect you may need to go to a restroom, go really early and get that taken care of early. Courtrooms do not often allow people to interrupt and say “I have to go to the restroom.” Think ahead. Plan ahead. Go ahead.
Your role in a courtroom is to sit there, listen attentively, and respond when the Judge either addresses you directly and personally, or as part of a group. If you know any of the parties involved in a lawsuit or criminal proceeding, there will be a point at which someone will ask if you do. That may be the judge. That may be a lawyer. Wait until they ask before you volunteer.
Whatever you have seen on Judge shows on television, forget it. You are not on TV. You are not going to show anyone how glib you can be, how witty you are, or how interesting you can be. If you are a party in the proceeding, you are there to try to win your case – whether civil or criminal. Let your lawyer do the talking. If you are there as a potential juror, let the Judge do the talking. Again, LISTEN. Answer questions truthfully. Do your part.
Being in court can be a great experience. You can learn much about how our civil and criminal justice system works, but you must go in and do your part. Always remember the old saying “nobody likes a smart ass.” Those are sage words when entering a courtroom.
Copyright 2022, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.