Thursday, October 18, 2007

Court Room Protocol

Whether you willingly choose to enter a court room by suing someone, or you have the setting imposed upon you by being sued or you are facing criminal charges; court rooms are very intimidating places. Regardless of your reasoning for being in this environment, it will probably put you more at ease if you have the opportunity to visit the court room, prior to your required court date. Each court room is like its own country with its own ruler (the judge), and its own rules of functioning. Being familiar with these protocols before you are in the spotlight will ease the entire experience for you. The key is understanding that the legal system is largely based on respect.

Time is a valuable commodity in a court room, as the legal system is jam packed with cases. It is imperative that you respect the court's time and arrive at court when ordered. You may also call and find out what time the court room opens and what time the judge takes the bench. Do not be late. If you have a court date set and you do not appear on time, that in and of itself may cause you a multitude of problems in addition to the ones you are there for in the first place. If you are going to be late, you MUST contact the court room and advise them of your situation. A failure to do so could result in your civil matter being dismissed, fines being imposed; or in a criminal matter, a warrant for your arrest being issued.

Court room attire is of the utmost importance. Judgements about you are often made very quickly in a court room. Many individuals in the court room are looking at you and evaluating you, and some of these individuals also may be largely responsible for deciding the outcomes on your matter as well. A court room is a very conservative and formal environment and its important to act and dress accordingly. A court room is not a place to show your individuality, or make a political statement. So you may want to think twice about wearing your nose ring or chaps.

Individuals are often referred to as sir or madame and the proper way to address the judge is "your honor." If asked a question by the judge a proper response would be "yes (never yeah) your honor." When you stand before a judge, your hands are at your sides, not in your pockets. If you have an attorney, it is not proper for you to address the judge directly. Your attorney is your representative and will speak, and in most cases answer, on your behalf. Do not let that concept intimidate you. If your attorney says something you do not agree with or the judge says something you do not understand, you may halt the proceeding and question your attorney accordingly.

Lastly, an important note about court room staff. Although the court room staff (the bailiffs, clerk, court reporter, interprater) may seem like minor players in the court room, they often are responsible for various important aspects of your case. You must treat them all with respect at all costs, as one error committed by them, either intentionally or unintentionally, may detrimentally effect you and your case in various ways.

If you have questions about this or any other legal matter, please do not hesitate to contact me at the Law Offices of Carl Simons (310) 749-4529.


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