Have you ever been to court? Unless you’re going to the courthouse for jury duty, appearing for one of your own hearings can be a very scary experience. If you are scheduled to appear in a court in Dallas, Denton, Collin, or Tarrant Counties there are some things you need to know. Maybe you are appearing for your divorce or family law hearing, a contested probate case, a criminal hearing, or a final trial in a civil matter.
Because judges have different preferences, and “courtroom custom” may vary depending on the county and the judge, the following is intended to provide a top 10 list of things you should know before you get to the courthouse:
- Always be prompt. If your hearing starts at 9:00, you probably need to be there at least thirty minutes early. For example, in a Denton Divorce case, your Denton County Divorce Attorney may want you at the courthouse even earlier because many times settlement negotiations will take place at the courthouse. Do not be late! The judge may not wait on you. The judge will call the case at the time designated and if you are not there the judge will proceed and could dismiss the case if you are not in attendance or even worse the other side could get the relief that they are seeking. Also, know where you are meeting your lawyer before the hearing.
- Stand when the judge enters or leaves the courtroom. Being a judge is an extremely difficult job. Judges must look at all sides and make as best of a decision in each case as possible. The things they have to see and hear about are horrendous. Standing is a simple sign of respect. We stand when we do the pledge of allegiance, or when the national anthem is being played. We stand when a bride walks down the aisle, or when the president comes into a room.
- Do not make personal attacks on opposing counsel or the opposing side. The other lawyer is just doing their job. Remember the other lawyer is not going to decide your case. Have the hearing in the courtroom not in the hall.
- Do not interrupt the Court or opposing counsel. Wait your turn. I see this every day at the courthouse. The judge will let you have your turn and will let you have a chance to respond to what the other side or the other lawyer is saying.
- No children are allowed in the Courtroom during Court proceedings. The courthouse is not a daycare. There is no one to watch your children. For example, if you have a Dallas Divorce case, why would you want your children to sit in the courtroom and have them listen to the complaints of you and your spouse. One judge has even told me that if he sees that a party brings a child to the courthouse, without court permission, he is already thinking in his mind that you do not have your child’s best interest in mind.
- No food, drinks, chewing gum, candy or tobacco products are allowed in the Courtroom. For example, the Collin County Courthouse is paid for with taxpayer money and is needed for the benefit of all citizens. The request for no food or drink just ensures that the buildings will remain nice and clean for us all in the future.
- No hats, caps, shorts, tank tops, halter tops or provocative clothing (this includes wording, pictures and the manner in which the clothing is worn). This really is a lawyer’s pet peeve. As a Family Law Attorney in the Denton County Courts, I have personally taken clients shopping before a hearing. You are not going to the spa, the beach, and you will not sway the judge by what you are wearing. Years ago while up in the Denton County Courts, I witnessed a bailiff instruct a person to turn their “This Buds for You” t-shirt inside out. Remember this is also a sign of respect.
- All pagers, cell phones or other portable communication devices must be turned to the off position. No communication devices shall be operated in the Courtroom. No audible sounds from the communication devices shall be permitted. In many North Texas courtrooms, if your cell phone goes off, it will be confiscated and not returned until you pay the fine for its return. I have witnessed in the middle of my hearings the opposing party’s cell phone going off while they were on the witness stand. Do we think that helps or hurts their case?
- All talking shall be at a minimum while court is in session. The judge cannot hear what is going on in the courtroom if everyone is talking. If you want to talk to your lawyer, go out in the hall.
- All persons addressing the court and/or staff shall do so in a respectful manner (i.e. yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, no ma’am). Yelling at the bailiff, the court reporter, the court coordinator is never helpful or advised.
These are just a few guides that we tell our clients on a day to day basis. At The Wright Firm, L.L.P. we have offices in Dallas, Denton, Collin, and Tarrant Counties in North Texas. We also handle family law and divorce, criminal matters, bankruptcy, probate and estate planning, immigration, and civil litigation. If you have questions about this article or a case that you may have, please visit our website at www.thewrightlawyers.com or send me an email at Patrick@thewrightlawyers.com for more information. Thank you for reading this article.