Law Office of Kari Nelson
1509 W. 2nd Terrace
P.O. Box 44-2588
Lawrence, KS 66044
Call: (785) 979-4985
Fax: (785) 312-9052
Probably the most important thing to understand before entering a courtroom is that a judge has a lot of power in what happens to your case; therefore, it is important that you make the best impression possible on the judge. It is very important that you dress appropriately and behave the same. The general rule would be to wear and behave like you would in an old-fashion church setting minus the amens. However, if you are not familiar with that dress code below are some general guidelines:
1. Cover all skin minus head, neck, hands, and forearms. Don’t let the media fool you, showing cleavage will not help your case and can actually damage it.
2. Along the same lines, you don’t want to wear extremely tight or excessively baggy clothing. Although wearing pants starting at the knees might be in fashion, it is not fashionable in court.
3. The judge’s realize you might not have the funds for an expensive three piece suit, but you want to look nice and respectable. So if you have it, wear slacks instead of jeans, a dress shirt versus a t-shirt, dress shoes over tennis shoes.
4. Also don’t wear outerwear in the courtroom, i.e. hats or coats.
5. Also make sure that you shut off all cell phone or portable electronic devices.
Behavior is also very important and certain behaviors are not appreciated by the judge. In particular, if you have an attorney, do not speak unless specifically requested and even without an attorney; do not speak unless it is your turn. Unlike in regular communication, in court it is never appropriate to interject or interrupt, unless you are the judge. If a judge interrupts you, you need to stop speaking immediately. If you are on the stand and someone objects, again it is time for to zip your lips and wait for further instructions.
Something that most people do not realize is that your non-verbal behavior is also very important. Never huff or puff, don’t roll your eyes or make hand jesters in response to anything the opposing counsel, the judge, or the opposing party says. Obviously if you are speaking and you naturally gesture with your hand, that is fine, just be careful.
Without just suggesting you go to law school yourself, it is very difficult to explain the intricacy of getting information into evidence. With that said, I want to let you know that there are a lot of rules governing how information is admitted. Assuming you have an attorney, your attorney should know these rules; however, you do need to know that it is not always easy and therefore it is important for you to reveal any information you think is important to your attorney as soon as possible. This way your attorney has the opportunity to go through whatever process is necessary to get the information through the appropriate channels so that the court will let the information in as evidence. So if there is an issue regarding phone numbers, bank records, criminal records, witnesses, etc. you need to make your attorney aware of this as soon as possible.
It can be very terrifying to testify. This is true whether you are called as a witness or you are a party. If you are called to testify, you are normally sent to the front of the room, you are sworn in. Then you get to take a seat at the center of attention and you are drilled with questions. So this can definitely be intimidating.
Therefore, there are a number of things to remember. First, be honest, but do not offer information not requested. Basically be honest but only answer the question, do not argue with the question and do not elaborate or try to explain your answer, especially when the question is from opposing counsel or party.
Make sure you speak clearly and loudly enough for everyone in the courtroom to hear. Do not mumble or speak more quietly just because you do not like the question or your answer.
There is a split in recommendation of who to look at when you answer a question. Some people say you should look at the judge or jury and some people say you should look at the person asking the question. I am not going to presume to know the ultimate answer to this question, but I will say you need to look directly at one or the other when answering. Definitely do not look at your hands or the stand. The reason some people suggest that you look at the judge (or the jury if it is a jury trial) is because it is the judge (or jury) who is ultimately responsible for deciding the case. In a trial, the judge (or jury) is considered the trier of the facts and as such has to determine the credibility of each witness. Therefore, the reasoning is that this person should be the one you are talking to so he or she can see your facial expressions and determine if you are being honest. The reason to look at the person who asked the question is a little simpler, it is because that is natural and you want to act as natural and comfortable as possible. Each attorney has different recommendations, therefore you want to ask your attorney what he or she suggests.
The use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship. Although I hope the information contained on this website will be helpful, it should not be a substitute for legal advice from an attorney that has reviewed the intricacy of your case.
The first step is getting the professional help you need. Start with a consultation.