Etiquette is essential for making a good impression, especially in the courtroom. Courtroom proceedings have many stated and unstated rules of conduct for litigants, attorneys, jurors, and other attendees. Whether you are the defendant, the plaintiff, or a witness, your appearance, dress, and actions can affect how the court sees you, and even how successful you are in presenting your case. Good manners and proper courtroom etiquette are very important and require preparation and self-awareness. Many etiquette mistakes involve talking, dress, presentation, and electronic devices being used in the courtroom. The judge and other courtroom formalities can be intimidating, but the following tips can help you make a good impression.

Show Respect for the Court

Anyone appearing before the court, including witnesses and members of the public, is responsible for showing respect for the judge, others in the courtroom, and the courtroom process. The judge not only represents the ultimate authority in the court but also the law. Here are some more specific tips for showing respect in the courtroom: In general, you must have permission to move beyond a certain point toward the judge or jury. For example, if you are called as a witness, you will be sworn in. You may not move out of the witness box without permission. If you are sitting at the defense or prosecution table with your attorney, you may not move forward without permission. The judge is to be addressed as “Your Honor,” not “Judge Harris.” Rise when the judge and jury enter and leave the courtroom. Stand when speaking to the judge, making or meeting an objection, or questioning a witness. Do not address the opposing counsel or other party. When referring to
others, do not use first names. It’s “Mrs. Harris,” not “Jan,” even if she is your sister-in-law. Speak only when instructed or given permission. Do not interrupt or argue, especially the judge. Use formal English, not slang. When you answer questions, make sure your responses are brief and to the point. Only one person is to speak at a time. It is not only polite but is very helpful for recording devices in the courtroom. When to Arrive Be there at least 10 minutes before your appearance time. If you’re not early, you’re late. If you arrive late, it’s likely you missed your case.

What to Wear

Dress nicely but also be comfortable. Being comfortable in your clothing will keep you focused in the courtroom.

What and Who NOT to Bring to Court

Gum chewing, tobacco, recording devices, cell phones, food, beverages, or newspapers are NOT allowed. Cell phones are not allowed in many courtrooms. If you are permitted to bring your cell phone, turn it off in the courtroom. Children are allowed in most courtrooms but only if they are quiet. If you have to bring your children, have someone with you who can take the child out of the courtroom if they become loud or disruptive.