Updated: Sep 11, 2020
How to act in court for those who have never been.
Going to court can be intimidating when you don’t know the social rules. Attorneys take entire classes on how to behave in court at law school! Keep reading for your crash course on courtroom etiquette so you can walk into court like a pro.
Courtrooms are old school when it comes to what you should wear (they still wear powdered wigs in some of them). You want to dress professionally and conservatively.
Avoid loud colors
Keep jewelry to a minimum
Remove extra piercings if possible
Cover tattoos if possible
Cover up – you may have great arms and legs, but showing them off won’t help your case.
Learn more about Dressing for Court.
Don’t be Late – It’s an Important Date
Nothing looks worse than when you are late to court. It reflects very poorly on you, and it’s disrespectful to the judge and everyone else involved in the case. That’s not the first impression you want to make. Leave more time than you think you need to get to court on time. You should also expect to be in court all morning or all afternoon.
Tip: Arrive to court 15 to 20 minutes early. You will have to go through courthouse security before you reach the courtroom.
No Kids in Court
Children do not belong in the courtroom. You need to arrange for childcare the day of your court appearance. Many courthouses have onsite childcare for parents who have court business.
Spokane County offers free childcare for community members attending to court business. Click here for more information on the Children's Waiting Rooms.
Review and organize your documents before you go to court so you aren’t frantically flipping through papers in the courtroom.
Tip: Organize your case documents in a binder so you can find everything quickly and easily.
Respect Court Rules
Courtrooms often have rules that apply specifically to that courtroom, but here are some rules you should follow in any courtroom:
Don’t chew anything (gum, food, your hair, nails…).
Don’t bring food or drinks into the courtroom.
Turn your phone off or put it on silent mode BEFORE entering the courtroom.
No talking when the judge is on the bench.
Absolutely NO swearing, cursing, threatening language or threatening behavior (assault in a courthouse is a felony).
Mind Your Ps and Qs
Even if you don’t want to be there, you have to respect the formality of the law and the people involved in the legal system. Here’s how:
Be respectful and polite to everyone involved in the case (this includes the opposing party).
Stand whenever the judge/jury enters the courtroom and exits the courtroom.
Address the judge (or commissioner) as “Your Honor” (Ex: Yes, Your Honor, I have those documents.).
Speak slowly and deliberately so that everyone can hear and understand you.
Answer all questions respectfully with yes, sir or no ma’am (Your Honor when the judge asked the question).
Address the judge when answering questions even if the opposing side asked the question.
Only answer the question you are asked. Do not use the answer to change topics. (You will have time to express your concerns).
Always stand whenever you are addressing the judge.
Do not interrupt anyone – ever.
NEVER approach the bench without permission (courtroom diagram).
Tip: Pretend you are taking your elderly grandmother out to lunch after church. She may be old, but she’ll still smack you with her fork if you don’t toe the line.
Control Your Emotions
Legal proceedings are stressful, but you have to keep you emotions in check while you’re in court. Nothing will be resolved if you can’t clearly communicate to the court. Being emotional in court doesn’t make you look responsible or mature either, and that’s the last thing you want when important legal matters are being decided.
You are allowed to bring a friend or family member with you to court for moral support, but they cannot talk for you.
Communicate with the Court
Courthouses have the resources to provide you with special accommodations (interpreter, hearing assistance…), but you must arrange them with the court before your court date. Don’t wait until the morning of your court proceeding.
Click here for more information on special accommodations in Spokane County.
Now you’re ready for court! The most important thing to remember whenever you go to court is to be patient, polite, and respectful.