The courtroom is a place of solemnity and sober reflections. Here are a few tips for behaving properly in one.
Disruptive behaviours such as talking, laughing or shouting will not be tolerated. Court proceedings are recorded and silence in the courtroom is a necessity. Unless you’re addressing the court, all other conversations should be carried on outside the courtroom. All statements on the record shall be addressed to the court and not to other litigants. If entering or exiting the courtroom while court is in session, please ensure that the door closes quietly behind you.
Respect phone rules
Use of a phone or other similar devices in the courtroom or chambers is a privilege that may be revoked at any time. All phones must be turned off or placed in a silent or vibrate mode, otherwise, they are subject to confiscation by the court security officers. The use of these devices (if left in an active silent mode) must not present a distraction to the user, other attorneys or parties, court personnel or the judge. The device should never be used in a manner that detracts the solemnity of the proceedings. Use of a device in a manner that impacts a judge’s ability to maintain the decorum of a hearing or conference shall result in the loss of the privilege.
Have appropriate reading materials
Reading materials unrelated to the business of the court may be used in the courtroom only at the discretion of the presiding judge. The use of such materials must not present a distraction to the user, other attorneys or parties, court personnel or the judge or detract from the decorum of the proceeding.
Avoid using recorders or cameras
Most courts prohibit the use of recording devices in the courtroom. The use of recording devices such as cameras, midgets and the likes, by anyone other than authorised court personnel is prohibited in the courtroom.
Timely arrival is mandatory. Entering the courtroom after the judge has taken the bench is disruptive and an inconvenience to attorneys, courtroom personnel and the court.
Food is prohibited
Eating, drinking and chewing gum are prohibited in the courtroom. If you are found engaging in any of these activities, you will be asked to leave the courtroom. Drinking water from a cup is permissible at counsel tables. Courthouses have an area outside the courtroom where you can eat. This should go without saying; you also can’t smoke in the courthouse
Appropriate dress is required in the courtroom and counsel should instruct clients and third parties to dress appropriately if they will be in the courtroom. All persons entering the courtroom shall be dressed in clothing reasonably befitting the dignity and solemnity of the court. Men should dress formally, wearing suits and dress shirt while women should wear conservative dresses, business suits, or dress pants and dress shirts. Flip flops, excessively high heels, and sneakers shouldn’t be worn to a trial. Avoid wearing loud bright colours or all black and wear only necessary jewellery such as a wedding ring or watch. Don’t wear heavy bracelets, earrings or necklaces. Avoid any clothing that is revealing or that has any explicit language or images on them and cover any visible tattoos.
Sunglasses and hats must be removed before entering the courtroom.
Keep children quiet
Children may be present in the courtroom. If, however, they disturb the proceedings, they must be removed from the courtroom. Parties with children may wait in the hallway if they have notified the courtroom officer ahead of time of their presence, case name and case number.
Be respectful of the judge, the court personnel and opposing counsel. Treat the court, court personnel and your opposing counsel as you wish to be treated, with respect and dignity. Stand when speaking to the judge, making or meeting an objection, or questioning a witness. Also, do not interrupt others while they are talking.
Treat courtroom furniture with care
Reasonable consideration should be given to the courtroom furniture, equipment and carpeting. Care should be taken not to track mud, snow and/or salt into the courtroom. Wet outer garments and umbrellas should be stored on the coat racks or in the hallway in a safe manner that does not obstruct access to the courtroom.
Prep for security checks
Most court buildings have a security checkpoint and you may need to go through a metal detector. Make sure you can remove all metal objects from your clothing. Do not bring weapons with you into the courthouse as these items are banned. Avoid bringing drugs and tobacco products with you. Illegal drugs should never be brought to a courthouse.
Be mindful of your answers
Always answer each question truthfully and to the best of your ability. Lying on the stand is perjury and may result in legal charges if discovered. There is no reason for you to rush to answer each question. It is alright to pause and think for a few seconds before answering. If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification and answer questions in a clear, loud voice. Maintain eye contact with the judge or members of the court when they are speaking to you. This shows you are paying attention. Don’t respond to a question unless you are ready. Some attorneys may try to pressure you into answering quickly, but don’t answer a question unless you are sure you understand it. Rapid questioning can lead to confusion and inaccuracy in court proceedings.