The formality and customs in a courtroom can be quite intimidating, and should you find yourself called before the court as either a defendant or a plaintiff, you might find yourself wondering how you should behave in a court of law. The following suggestions will help you form a good first impression with proper courtroom behavior.
- Make sure that you are on time, even early, for your court proceedings. The judge may form the opinion that you are not taking the proceeding seriously enough.
- Demonstrate your knowledge of proper courtroom behavior turning off your cell phone before entering court and leaving other electronic devices at home.
- Dressing in a professional manner, as if you are going for a job interview is also part of how to behave in a court of law. You should make sure your clothes are clean and pressed, and wear a suit if possible. Dressing in a conservative manner always makes a good impression. Hats are never permissible while you are in court, unless they have a religious significance.
- Remain seated while in court. Proper courtroom behavior requires that you stand only when the judge enters or leaves the courtroom, or if you are addressed directly by the court.
Your behavior in a court of law should always be respectful and polite. Politeness can help create a favorable image of you, so remember to say please and thank you. Use appropriate titles when speaking such as Mr. or Mrs., “Sir” or “Ma’am”. Always address the judge as “Your Honor”.
Proper courtroom behavior includes paying attention to your non-verbal communication also. Your body language should reflect a calm demeanor, refrain from negative body language such as eye rolling or shaking your head. Even if you disagree, it is important to remain in control and remember that you will have the opportunity to present your side of the story.
When the court is in session and the judge is present, you must remain silent unless called upon. If you are part of the proceedings, when you are called, demonstrate proper courtroom behavior by directing your responses and questions to the court. Speak directly to the judge using a clear, calm and respective tone of voice. It is important to be sincere and truthful in your responses.
Never interrupt another party when they are speaking, you will have the opportunity to respond or ask for clarification. Do not display poor courtroom behavior by using slang or other offensive words or phrases.
These are just a few basic tips on how to behave in a court of law. Whether you are a defendant, a plaintiff, or even a spectator, proper courtroom behavior demonstrates respect for the court system and is a direct reflection on you. Make that reflection positive.