Court Room etiquette

Courtrooms are almost always filled with passion, emotions and drama. Litigation can be a stressful process and often complainants or defendants find it difficult to cope with attending court. Factors such as behaviour and appearance may actually play a part in the outcome of your case.

Stay informed: The first step in coping with a lawsuit is to get the correct information about the process. Talk to a lawyer about what to expect, what kind of time limits are in place, whether you have a good basis upon which to bring a claim or to dispute liability or claimed damages, and whether settling out of court or defending the case at trial would be more beneficial to your situation.

Communicate openly and honestly with your attorney: Nobody knows what happened better than the parties to any proceedings—not your lawyer, not their lawyer, not any witnesses and not a Judge or Magistrate or jury. Your lawyer is only equipped with the factual tools you can provide him or her. So, get involved, be candid with your lawyer, and try to stay focused on solutions.

Prepare yourself mentally: Get counselling if needed or confide in someone you trust. Increased stress or inability to manage the emotional and psychological aspects of litigation can only prevent you from fully participating in your own matter. Always communicate with your lawyer about your state of mind before attending court.

Dress appropriately  When you enter a courtroom, always show respect for the Court. The way you look is the first thing the Judge or Magistrate will notice about you, so always consider your appearance. Dress conservatively and with care and look serious about the whole event.

No need for hostility: Attending at court can be an emotional roller coaster, but it is not the place for anger and hostility. Judges and Magistrates pick up on pointless aggression towards opposing parties or their lawyers and don’t like it. Control your feelings.

Avoid the drama: You are not the lead actor in a soap opera. Although emotions can run high, your best option is to remain calm, logical and polite. When the other side is talking to the Court, do not sigh loudly, snicker, roll your eyes or make gestures. It achieves nothing but damage to your credibility.

Trust your lawyer: Your attorney knows the lawsuit game better than you do, and for good reason: that’s what you hired them to do. Pay attention in court: Nobody is more interested in your matter than you. Once you step into that courtroom, be attentive. Be thoughtful. Be present.

Of course, your own attorney would be the best person to guide you on the litigation process, but these tips should be kept in mind if you have to attend as a claimant, defendant, petitioner, applicant or respondent in any matter before the Court.

 

By Jason Nathu, TT Guardian

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