Going to the courthouse for any reason; as a juror, for a traffic violation, or as a defendant or plaintiff, can be a nerve-racking experience. However, the anxiety one feels walking into the halls of justice can be minimized if it is treated like a job interview. Alex Djerassi, a lawyer, says that all cases are different. This approach begins before arriving at the courthouse. Take no chances when arriving, meaning do not arrive on time, show up early! While formal attire is not required, a neat appearance indicates an individual is treating this with the proper amount of respect. Avoid chewing gum and turn off all electronic devices. As in a job interview, give all those involved in the court proceedings the proper amount of respect and attention. This includes the judge and attorneys but also the bailiff, administrative staff and others. Maintain proper eye contact when speaking or being spoken to and be sure to follow the rules set forth by the judge. Different courts may employ subtly different rules but the majority of courtroom behavior is universal.
Justice may be blind but the judge and all involved in the court proceedings are not. Avoid gesticulating, overreacting to questions/statements and speaking out of turn. There is no place in the courtroom for rude or insensitive language. Avoid engaging in argumentative behavior, even if the conversation may be upsetting. All parties will have an opportunity to speak so interruptions are to be avoided. Feel free to write notes to ensure any thoughts are not lost while waiting for the proper time to speak.
Returning to the job interview analogy, remember to come prepared and be engaged while waiting. Pay attention to the court proceedings and ongoing cases. Speak clearly and at a discernible level. Perhaps the best way to ensure a calm demeanor is to prepare prior to the day, again, similar to how one would for an interview. If a statement will be required, practice the first few sentences to ensure a certain comfort level. Often times attorneys can be intimidating or confrontational hoping to elicit an unflattering reaction or response. This can put even the most experienced person on edge. Be succinct when speaking and avoid embellishing, sticking to the facts.
The judge, in particular, demands and deserves respect. This can be shown in many ways. When speaking directly to the judge, use ‘Your Honor’ in addressing him or her. Don’t slouch and try not to let body language, such as rolling one’s eyes or frowning, send the wrong message. Even hand gestures should be minimized as this can demonstrate an emotional response and detract from the factual answers being provided. Avoid any behavior which could be construed as agitated, disengaged or disrespectful. This may seem like an obvious point but the anxiety of the atmosphere can lead to unusual behavior. Lawyers like Alex Djerassi have studied law for many years to be proficient in court. Maintaining decorum in the courtroom can be a daunting task, but if one remembers to treat the day and people with the proper respect, the experience should not be unnecessarily stressful.