Jamie Graham & Associates, PLLC

Understanding proper courtroom etiquette

In today’s laid-back culture, etiquette has become something of a lost art in Texas and across the nation. Gone are the days when Emily Post and other etiquette experts instructed us on exactly what to wear, say and do, not to mention how to behave, in any social situation.

While the courtroom definitely is not a social situation, you need to know the rules of courtroom etiquette if you are a plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit, a juror or someone who likely will be a witness.

General rules

Always be on time to any and all court hearings. Give yourself extra time to get there, park, go through the security line and find the proper courtroom. Turn off your cellphone, or at least completely mute it, before entering the courtroom. Judges are not amused when cellphones go off during court; some judges have been known to evict the guilty person(s) from their courtrooms. Judges likewise are not amused when people talk or whisper during a court proceeding. Keep your comments to yourself until court is out of session.

Courtroom attire

Just as you would not go to a corporate job interview dressed in jeans, a tee-shirt and barefooted, neither should you appear in court looking like that. You probably will notice that the male attorneys wear business suits and ties, and the female attorneys also wear business attire, be it a skirted suit, pants suit, or conservative dress.

If you are a man, under no circumstances should you ever appear in court in a ratty pair of jeans, no belt, and your tee-shirt or shirttail flapping in the breeze. While you probably do not need to wear a suit and tie, a pair of dress pants with belt and a collared, tucked-in dress shirt are the order of the day.

If you are a woman, never, never go into a courtroom dressed in shorts, cutoff jeans, or a low-cut, spaghetti-strap top, even if it is 110 degrees outside. Get there early, cool off in the air conditioning, and present yourself in the courtroom dressed in, at the very least, a pair of dress pants with belt and a conservative blouse or sweater.

Addressing the judge

The judge is king or queen of his or her courtroom. (S)he represents not only the ultimate authority, but also the law itself. As such, you must always show him or her respect, even if you disagree with something (s)he says or something (s)he does. Always rise when the judge and/or jury enters the courtroom and remain standing until they seat themselves. Likewise always rise when they leave the courtroom. It is purely a matter of simple respect.

Always address the judge as “Your Honor.” If (s)he asks you a yes or no question, respond with a “Yes, sir” or “No, ma’am.”

Addressing the lawyers

If you are a witness, answer the questions as truthfully and succinctly as possible. Always be courteous to the attorney asking you the questions, even if (s)he represents your opponent. Admittedly, some attorneys attempt to rile witnesses on cross-examination. Try your best to maintain your composure at all times, even when provoked. Also try not to interrupt him or her when (s)he is asking you questions.

Never use foul language when answering a question. A hostile, angry witness loses credibility with the judge and jury. If you do not understand the question, it is your right to ask the attorney to repeat or rephrase it, but do so in a courteous way.

If the court clerk or the court reporter asks you to repeat your answer, do so cooperatively. In all likelihood (s)he did not sufficiently hear your answer to get it into the court record.

While any or all of these rules may seem superficial to you, or done for the purpose of “putting on a show,” such is not the case. Courtrooms are serious places where people’s lives, freedom and financial future can hang in the balance. Observing proper courtroom etiquette is the least you can do when you are part of the proceedings.

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At Jamie Graham & Associates, PLLC, we have received a variety of honors and awards for our family law services. Members of our team have been listed as Top Lawyers in San Antonio Scene magazine. We take pride in the number of positive reviews we have received from satisfied clients. On AVVO, a lawyer rating website, we have received an 8.9 rating overall and many positive ratings from clients and colleagues.

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Jamie Graham & Associates, PLLC
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San Antonio, TX 78205

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