RDF Client Guide – Court Etiquette
Court etiquette is an important part of our Criminal Justice system and important for everyone who is interacting with the court to know. No matter who you are, the same rules apply. When you show respect for the court’s rules, you’re helping the court, and you’re helping yourself and your attorneys in their representation of you. If you are scheduled to appear in court, prepare accordingly and follow court etiquette rules.
Reynolds Defense Firm wants to prepare you for success in your case and in life, so we’re your guide for the legal process. Our attorneys are in court daily so understand how to best present you and your case for success.
Preparing for Court
There are no guaranteed victories in court, but when you prepare for court, you’re improving your chances for success. Like everyone else, judges, court staff, and lawyers want to do their jobs smoothly and efficiently. Help them do their jobs by properly preparing for court:
- Arrive at the courthouse early.
- Build extra time into traveling to the courthouse. You don’t want to be late because of problems with transportation or parking. Depending on the courthouse locating, parking can potentially be difficult. Make sure you know in advance where you’re going and the best place to park.
- Plan extra time into your schedule for security screenings. Security screenings can be slow, and there may be many people ahead of you.
- Understand where you need to be and when. Locate the courtroom in advance.
- Review the documents your attorney has given you and know the goal of the court appearance.
- Dress appropriately. For more information, see below
- When waiting outside of a courtroom, know that others will notice your conduct. Be polite to everyone.
- Be aware that in the public spaces of the courthouse, you shouldn’t discuss your case in a voice that others can hear. Don’t badmouth the police officers or talk about what happened. Don’t talk about your case with the people around you – you should only discuss your case with your attorney.
- If you absolutely cannot make your appearance due to circumstances out of your control, contact your lawyer immediately
You’ll meet the attorney at the planned time and place. Most counties will have security at the court entrance so be prepared to do a very similar dance to the security at the airport, metal detectors and the like. So dress for that and only bring appropriate items as they will confiscate or not allow you in with any contraband. Contraband is stuff that would not be allowed into court – think, weapons, drugs, etc.
In case it needs to be said, obviously you’re never coming to court under the influence, impaired or intoxicated. And, you’re not bringing anything illegal with you to court. We have seen clients taken into custody or forced to take a UA (pee in a cup) if they’re in court smelling like alcohol. That, obviously, does not send the proper message of respect for the process to the court.
Yes, it definitely matters what you wear to court. We’re past the days of needing everyone to be in suits – the lawyers have to, but clients certainly do not. However, the attire you wear does indicate how you feel about court – we urge clients to show their respect for the court and the system overall by dressing appropriately. Again, it is not a black-tie affair by any means, but respectful attire is appreciated and shows the court you’re taking this very serious situation seriously. We usually recommend people pretend like they’re going to a job interview (for a job you actually want) or out for a nice meal with people you like and respect.
When You Appear in Court
Once you’re at the courthouse, understand that your appearance and conduct matter. If you’re rude or inconsiderate, a judge and other court staff will notice. A judge expects everyone present to pay attention and act with respect. If you’re in court, follow your attorney’s lead, and be respectful. Court is serious business, and judges don’t take kindly to violations of etiquette and rules.
Here’s some tips for making your time in court successful:
- Don’t bring food or beverages – most courts do not allow food or drink in the courtrooms and you don’t want to be a distraction with packaging.
- Arrange for childcare during your court appearance – do not bring children to court.
- Turn off your cellphone – judges do not tolerate interruptions.
- Make a good first impression with a clean, conservative appearance.
- Be polite and courteous to everyone in the court.
- Stand when a judge or a jury enters the court. If you aren’t sure when to stand or sit, watch your attorney and mimic them.
- Never interrupt anyone who is speaking, including the judge, witnesses, or even the opposing side. In court, usually only one person is allowed to speak at a time.
- Do not argue with anyone, even if you strongly disagree. If you have questions or concerns, your attorney can help you after the court appearance.
- Be respectful to the judge. The judge is the most important person in the room. If the judge asks you a question, stand and address the judge as, “your honor.”
- If the judge asks a question, answer truthfully. Do not compromise your case by lying to a court.
- If you have questions about the proceedings, or you need assistance, your attorney will help you. Do not ask questions of the judge or other staff.
- No matter how a court appearance goes, maintain control over your emotions and refer questions to your attorney.
After Your Time in Court
You attorney will follow up with you and keep you informed. If your case requires further appearances, your attorney will manage the process and let you know what needs to happen. Do not contact the court or the judge, directly. Your attorney always has your best interests in mind and will act as your representative and deal with the court as needed.
Although this RDF Client Guide has a lot of good information in it, it is not all the information that we have to share with you. Please visit our website at www.reynoldsdefensefirm.com. We have included Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s), client reviews, an introduction to our Reynolds Defense Firm team as well as links to most of the resources you will need throughout your legal case process. Our goal at RDF is to make your experience with the legal system as smooth as possible, and we hope this information has been beneficial and will help to facilitate the partnership between us. If you have any questions as you read through this, or if you’d like an additional level of help at any time as we proceed through your case, please contact our office at (503) 223-3422.