This can be difficult when you are caught up in the emotion of your case, and the judge is reprimanding you, disagreeing with you, instructing you to answer a question, or otherwise commenting on your case in a manner with which you do not agree. Bite your tongue. Regardless of how rude, wrong or ridiculous you believe the judge is, DO NOT, under any circumstances, talk back to the judge. If someone is going to get into an argument with the judge, let it be your attorney. It’s their job. And, chances are, they have dealt with this judge before and have an idea of how far they can go without really making the judge angry. The best thing you can do when you feel the urge to snap back at the judge is to respond with a simple, polite, “Yes, Your Honor.”
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Part of the other attorney’s strategy is probably to get under your skin. So, if you allow that to happen, you are helping their case. Do not argue with the other attorney. Do not ask rhetorical questions in response to their questions. Do not be a smart aleck. Answer with the shortest, simplest answer you can possibly give. Your attorney will ask you follow up questions when the other attorney is finished, so you will get a chance to explain things that need to be explained.
You hired an attorney because you realized that you needed advice and representation in your legal matter. Remember that. Do not suddenly start thinking that you know how to be an attorney better than your attorney, when you are in court. Your attorney has likely poured many hours into your case, pouring over facts, evidence, documents, and drafting questions. They have developed a strategy for your case, based on their experience with your particular legal issue and their experience with that issue, their knowledge of the law, and their familiarity with your judge. Listen to their advice and guidance, and trust that they are going to do what is in your best interest.
Regardless of the reason you are going to court, you should dress like you are there to do business- because you are. Whether you are there for a criminal matter, or a civil matter, it is important to present yourself as a person who means business and takes their case seriously. The saying, “You only get to make one first impression,” holds especially true in a court room. The first impression the judge will have stuck in his/her mind will be how you look as you walk to the front of the courtroom. Given the short amount of time the judge has to form any impressions, you do not want to leave a negative imprint right off the bat. Give the judge every reason to believe, right from the beginning, that you are a respectable, well intentioned person, there to do business.
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Written by Valerie Hunter, Hunter & Hein, Attorneys at Law, PLLC, 11/08/2017
* Please note that the following is not meant to provide legal advice. When involved in a legal dispute, it is important to consult with a lawyer in your area who is familiar with your local rules and procedures. If your matter is located in Mecklenburg or Cabarrus counties, we may be able to help. Contact us today at 704-412-1442 to speak to an attorney.
As an attorney, I see people in court all the time, and think to myself, “What are they thinking?!” Sometimes this is a reaction to something they said, other times it’s a reaction to what they’re wearing, or some other observation. I’ve put together a list of things to know, do, NOT do, and think about when you are going to be in court:
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Let me give you an example. If the other attorney asks you, “Isn’t it true that you were pulled over last year for speeding?” Your answer should simply be, “Yes.” (Assuming the assertion is true.) Your answer should not be, “Yes, but I think he just pulled me over because the cop recognized me and then they searched me for no reason and I got arrested because there was some weed in the car that I didn’t even know about.” When the attorney asked his initial question, he may not have even known that you were arrested as a result of that stop; but, now you have given the court information for which you were not asked and which does not help your case. Although you should not give information for which you have not been asked, you must not, ever, lie under oath. Not only is it perjury, but it also puts your attorney in a very difficult position, because your attorney is ethically prohibited from supporting perjury. Lying while testifying can create a sticky situation in which your attorney either has to ask you questions to prompt you to fix your lie, or your attorney could potentially be forced to make an impromptu withdrawal from your case, which will tip the judge off that something is wrong. The best practice is to give the simple, honest answer, and let your attorney follow up with questions that allow you to explain the things that need to be explained.
Anytime you are heading into court, it is a stressful, and many times an emotional experience. If you have an attorney, ask them any questions that you have about court prior to going in for your court date. This will help ease your mind, set your expectation and help you understand what will be expected of you when your day in court arrives. Keeping these rules in your back pocket (figuratively), will help you to have a more successful court appearance and make a better impression on the judge.
While the other side is testifying, you must at all times keep a poker face. There are always two sides to a story; and your version is likely very different from the other side’s version, otherwise you wouldn’t have ended up in court. Whether they are leaving out facts or just plain lying, resist the urge to scrunch you nose or roll your eyes. I suggest that when clients feel themselves getting frustrated with what they are hearing from the other side, they start writing down exactly what is frustrating them. This keeps them from making faces at the other party, and it gives me some good notes to look over while I’m questioning the other side.
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