Over the years, I have learned that some of the “little things” can make a bigger impact on a case than you might expect. One of those “little things” is simply preparing yourself for a court appearance.
Whether you are a client, witness, or have some other business before a court, there is a level of preparedness that a person needs to achieve.
PERSONAL APPEARANCE – Since most people who attend court are clients, this is probably the most important and easiest aspect of court preparedness. Clients usually rely on their attorneys to speak on their behalf. Most of the time, they are only seen in court.
However, the fact that a person is being seen in court is important too. To illustrate by example, I once had a marijuana case in Heard County Superior Court before Judge Keeble. I worked out a deal with the prosecutor whereby my client would not have a drug conviction. As the 9:00 hour settled in, my client strolled into court with a pair of torn blue jeans and a tee shirt. My eyes popped out as I noticed that my client also had a very large picture of a marijuana “blunt” right in the middle of the front of his tee shirt. I was grateful that I was able to catch him in the back of the courtroom and suggest some clothing alternatives. He returned 15 minutes later and was appropriately dressed.
That is an extreme example. However, you would be surprised by what some people choose to wear to court. All clients and witnesses should dress as if they were on their way to Sunday school. This could be a suit, golf shirt and slacks, or a button-down collared shirt. I suggest that my female clients simply wear a conservative outfit such as a dress. For those folks who live a “dressed down” lifestyle, that is completely fine. They just need one outfit that is appropriate for court.
There is one exception. Some work clothes are appropriate. For instance, it is fine if a person appears in court wearing a company uniform. This shows everyone, particularly the judge and prosecutor, that the person is a working man or woman. Having a good job can be critical in many cases.
BE MENTALLY PREPARED – Some court appearances are routine, dull, and inconvenient to all parties. But, there are some that can have a vital importance to a case.
Before going to court, it is important to at least touch base with the lawyer regarding what to expect. A person may need to look at their prior testimony, statements (if he or she is a witness), or be prepared to address the judge or the prosecuting attorney in some cases. Knowing the facts
of the case can make a huge difference in the outcome.
The most important aspect of being mentally prepared is controlling anxiety. It is natural to be nervous in court; especially if the person is testifying. Talented attorneys can be brutal during cross-examination. The goal is to turn the witness’s anxiety into anger. When the jury or the judge see a witness get angry while the lawyer is calm, the lawyer has won.
BE ON TIME – This would seem to be obvious. But, I have seen hundreds of people show up late for court. This shows disrespect for the judge, puts the lawyer in a difficult situation, and can result in the issuance of a bench warrant. If a true emergency comes up, like an emergency room visit, then the client needs to get the appropriate paperwork to the lawyer as soon as possible. Oftentimes, proper documentation will clear up issues of being late or failing to show up for court.
These are just some common-sense ideas to assist in a more successful experience in court. They are easy to follow and will have a positive impact on your case whether it is criminal or civil.