Kentucky judges are supposed to be impartial. But, they’re also human, and can be offended, especially when you act or present yourself inappropriately in their courtroom. That’s why it’s important to practice proper courtroom etiquette if you ever have an opportunity to visit a judge on their home turf.
So, what exactly is proper courtroom etiquette?
First, always dress well when appearing in court. Men should wear a suit jacket and tie and refrain from wearing a hat. Women should wear a conservative (not overly revealing) dress or pant suit. And, of course, cleanliness and good grooming are essential.
When your case is called, go directly to the counsel table. Do not stray into the area between the counsel table and judge’s bench, known as “the well.”
If you’ve been sworn in, sit down. If you haven’t, remain standing until the clerk swears you in. If you object to taking an oath, tell the clerk you’d prefer to “affirm” the oath, and then say “I affirm” rather than “I swear” when the oath is given.
Showing the judge ongoing respect is the key to proper courtroom etiquette. Always stand facing the judge when addressing the court, and refer to the judge as “Your Honor.” Be sure to follow the judge’s instructions to the letter, and never interrupt him or her.
In fact, you should never interrupt or “talk over” any participant in the proceedings. Judges revere the legal process and consider any show of disrespect extremely rude.
In addition, such behavior makes it very difficult for the court reporter to accurately record what is being said.
Ringing cell phones also hamper court reporting, so be sure to turn yours off.
When in court, your job is to convince the judge of the merits of your case. Judges respond positively to persuasive arguments, but often seek to control how those arguments are made. Be patient if the judge constantly interrupts you, he or she is usually only trying to clarify their understanding of the facts being given.
Remember, unlike that statue outside the courthouse, Kentucky judges don’t wear blindfolds. They can see your poor courtroom etiquette, which may tip the scales of justice out of your favor.
Now it’s your turn. Have you ever seen someone behave outlandishly in court? Tell us about it in the comments.
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