When an individual walks into court for the first time, the first impression that person makes on the judge is crucial. Creating a good first impression will imprint in the judge’s mind, and could ultimately influence the outcome of that individual’s case. What follows is a list of the top ten ways to make a lasting impression on the judge (or jurors) for the best chance of success in the courtroom.
Be On Time
Judges hear numerous cases every day. Arriving late may cause a significant delay in the court’s calendar. Arriving late could mean that the judge’s entire schedule will be delayed. A tardy appearance could result in a judge determining that defendant a failed to appear. The judge could issue a warrant for the arrest of the absented individual. It is recommended that an individual arrive at the courthouse at least fifteen minutes prior to his or her scheduled court appearance.
Dress for success. Considering how one appears will help a defendant make a good first impression on the judge or jurors. While judges are required to be impartial, at the end of the day, judges are human beings. Thus, a judge, just like any other person, will form a first impression of an individual by the way the person presents in her court room. Dressing appropriately will help those who appear in front of the judge form a good first impression. A person should wear clean and appropriate attire when attending any type of court proceeding.
Conduct Yourself Appropriately
Conducting oneself in an appropriate manner while in the courtroom is arguably one of the most important things a person can do to make a positive impression on a judge or jury. Even if a defendant, or a witness, is not currently on the stand or actively participating in the proceedings, a person’s conduct is extremely important. Sit still, listen attentively, and act appropriately. It is crucial to note that throughout a court appearance, a judge (or a jury) will watch the participants in front of her. Making faces or shaking one’s head when listening to opposing counsel’s legal argument will reflect poorly on the defendant.
If a person chooses to testify, she should practice what she is going to say before she takes the witness stand. If she is represented by a lawyer, she should practice testifying with her lawyer before the actual court proceeding. Preparing will also give a person time to determine how to respond to questions the opposing attorney will ask on cross examination.
Show Respect for Others
An individual involved in a court proceeding should always show respect for others involved in the proceedings. Even though one might disagree with the opposing party or the opposing party’s counsel, it will only benefit that person if she shows respect to everyone in the courtroom. This not only includes the members of the opposing party, but also clerks, bailiffs, and other courthouse staff.
Being attentive during court proceedings by listening to what the attorneys and judge are saying can be beneficial to an individual’s case. By doing so, the judge will see that the individual truly cares about the outcome of the case. Further, a person may pick up on things brought up by the opposing side, and point it out to his attorney in attempt to change the outcome of the case. Paying attention may also allow a person to realize what the judge is looking for. When that person takes the stand, he can provide the judge with the information or evidence she is likely looking for.
Turn off Electronic Devices
Always turn off a cell phone off before entering a courtroom! If a phone rings during court proceedings, it distracts everyone in the courtroom, including the judge. Even putting a phone on the vibrate mode can disturb the proceeding. Power any device down while in the courtroom.
Wait Your Turn
Both sides of a proceeding will get a turn to be heard by the judge. It is important that an individual waits her turn before speaking in court. In a court proceeding, it is key to only speak when the judge requests it.
If a person takes the stand, she should answer truthfully and to the best of her recollection. Telling lies will only hurt her case because the opposing counsel will likely test the accuracy of her statements by questioning other witnesses and examining other evidence. If she is truthful, the judge will see that she is a credible witness and credible party in the case.
Things to Refrain from Doing
When a person enters a courtroom, he should never do the following: chew gum, eat, drink, use a camera, cellphone, or carry a weapon. These actions are distracting to others in the courtroom, and, in the case of carrying a weapon, prohibited.