If you have a court date—whether as a plaintiff or a defendant—you need to be aware that going to court is a serious occasion, and there are some things that can hurt or help your cause.
Your appearance matters
Believe it or not, some litigants show up to court dressed in casual clothes: jeans, worn out t-shirts, and even pajama bottoms. The judge may or may not force you to leave if you do this, but even if he or she allows you to stay, you can be absolutely certain that your appearance is leaving an impression, and it could end up costing you the case.
Although a judge is supposed to be impartial in his or her rulings, the fact of the matter is that judges are people, too, and it would be impossible for them to not be influenced, even if it’s only slight and subconscious, by someone showing up to court wearing sweatpants. While it may not come out in the judge’s rulings on clear-cut issues, you can bet that if there is an issue where it could reasonably go either way, your appearance can hurt your position.
Stand up when you speak to the judge
Likewise, it’s common courtesy to stand up when you speak to the judge, and call him or her “sir,” “ma’am,” or even “your honor.” Being respectful and courteous will get you a long way, and if you decline to properly address the judge you can find yourself on the losing end of a ruling.
Don’t take anything with you that you don’t want the other side to see
If you expect to be testifying, remember that when you get on the witness stand the other side will have the right to inspect anything you take with you. If you go up there with a page full of notes—even of those notes are otherwise confidential—the opposing side has the right to see them. And you can bet that their attorney will ask to do so.
Tell the truth
Many people, especially those acting as witnesses for someone else, are tempted to lie on the witness stand. This is a bad idea, as the truth will almost always come to light eventually, and you could find yourself in serious trouble if you lied on the witness stand. That’s called “perjury” and it’s a crime.
Keep these things in mind next time you to go court, and you’ll find the process goes much more easily for you.