Thursday, March 15, 2012

Court "Appearance"

"Appearance is everything."

There is a great deal of truth to that statement, especially when it comes to going to court. The judge who is hearing your case will not know you and in all likelihood, has never seen you before. He will make decisions and judgments about you based on a very short period of contact.  Because of this, your overall demeanor and appearance can have a great impact.

This may require that you "act" like you are calm and collected when in fact, you are a nervous wreck. This also may require you to ignore taunts from the other party or their counsel and to refuse to fall into the trap of getting angry or aggressive in response. Don't argue with the attorney, the court or anyone else. And only speak when it is your turn! Blurting out reactions or comments just makes the judge mad. Expect to hear things you disagreed with and that you will be able to dispute when you testify.

You should be respectful and courteous to everyone, even your own lawyer-but most especially to the judge. There should be no arguments in the courtroom hallways. Word of this often gets back to the judge.

You also should appear to be, and actually be, prepared for court. Bring ALL of your information to court with you. You may not need it, but if you do, it is there. Keep your papers neatly organized. I give clients a folder to use, but you may need more storage space. Be certain that your lawyer has all of the information in advance.

You also need to plan to arrive at court EARLY just to make sure that you are not late and so that you can discuss last minute details with your lawyer. Tell your witnesses to do the same.

Do not bring "dates" to court, especially in family law matters. If you need moral support, bring a relative or friend.

Most local courts will not permit you to bring cellphones in. To be on the safe side, leave it in the car, and tell your witnesses to do the same.

Dress in an appropriate manner. Never wear shorts or t-shirts. Avoid jeans. Dress conservatively. Many judges are old men. They do not appreciate trendy styles. Avoid glitzy jewelry. Men should wear dress shirts and dress pants, if possible. No cleavage or extra short skirts for women.

You need to be clean, shaved and well-groomed. No extra cologne or other distractions (for example, if the nose ring can come out, take it out). If you need a haircut, get one before court.

Do not bring children to court unless they are under subpoena and are required to be there. Find a babysitter. Judges hate babies in court.

Even if you look like you are a winner and deserving of confidence, you are not guaranteed to win, but you will not lose because of factors that are completely within your control!

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