Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tips for behaving in the courtroom - in front of any Texas judge

Tips for the Courtroom 

Be prepared:

Get to the courthouse at least 30 minutes early to find parking and your courtroom.

Bring change for the parking meter.  Plan to be in the courtroom for at least 4 hours. Courts can move slowly.  If you can park in a garage (without a meter) that is best since you don't know how long you will be there.

Dress neatly. Do not wear shorts, tank tops or hats. Dress like you are going to Easter Church - conservative, clean and neat. If you have a tongue piercing, take it out. Most judges are middle class people so you need to dress like they would.  No hair rollers or other sloppy dress.

Do not bring children.

Most courtrooms do not allow children.

When you are in court:

When the courtroom opens, go in and tell the clerk or officer you are present. The clerk usually sits next to the judge’s bench.

Be calm and polite to everyone.

Turn off your cell phone.

Try to sit in the front of the courtroom.  Listen carefully to what is going on.  When the court's docket (daily agenda) is "announced" (the judge goes quickly over his caseload for the day) be sure to stand up and announce "here".  Otherwise, you can be counted as absent and bad things can happen - case dismissed or you are arrested for non-appearance.

Do not chew gum or bring food or drinks into the courtroom.

Stand up when the judge enters or exits the courtroom.

Stand up when you talk to the judge, unless you’re in the witness stand.

The judge may not call your case right away.

Wait patiently. If the court room empties and you did not hear your case called, talk to the court coordinator or the bailiff.  If you don't make your presence known then your case could be dismissed or you could be arrested for not showing up.

If you have to leave the courtroom, tell the clerk where you are going. 

If friends or relatives come to court with you, ask them to follow these rules, too.

When the judge calls your case: 

The judge will have you raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth. 

If you have a divorce, case, you will need to give testimony. Some judges will ask you questions. Other judges will want you to read a “script” of testimony. You can find sample scripts – called “prove up testimony” – at www.TexasLawHelp.org. Read the script ahead of time. Make sure everything in the script is true for you.

When talking to a judge, call the judge “Your Honor.”

If the judge asks you questions, wait until she or he finishes speaking before you speak.

Don't interrupt the judge - the judge can hold you in contempt of court and have you put into the court's mini-jail if you do not behave.

Do not cuss.

Do not mumble - many judges are older and they need to be able to hear you.

Tell the truth and don’t exaggerate.

Give complete answers. Just tell the facts - you don't need to give the judge the history of cooking if you are trying to tell the judge how to boil an egg. Keep it short & simple.

Say “yes” or “no” out loud. It’s not enough to nod or shake your head.

If you do not understand a question, say, “I don’t understand.”

If you do not know an answer, say, “I don’t know.”

The judge will listen to what you say and review your papers.

If everything is in order the judge will sign your proposed Order or Decree.

If the judge rejects your form or denies you, ask the judge if he/she can give you an idea of what is wrong so that you can fix it.

ALWAYS BE NICE TO THE JUDGE'S STAFF - IF NOT, THE JUDGE WON'T BE NICE TO YOU.  Listen carefully to what they say - they are not attorneys and they are limited in what they can say to you.

If you are confused, hire an attorney to assist you with your legal issue.

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