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Why Courtroom Etiquette Is Important

As you get ready to go to your Tennessee court hearing, you will likely feel nervous and apprehensive. Probably the last thing on your mind is your clothing, your shoes, your haircut and other aspects of your personal grooming. It may, therefore, surprise you to learn that these things can influence the outcome of your case. 

Admittedly, going to court is definitely not a social situation. Nevertheless, you should be aware that courts have etiquette rules that cover such things as the following:

  • Your mode of dress
  • Your manner of speech
  • Your cellphone
  • The contents of your pockets or purse

Failing to adhere to these rules could get you kicked out of the courtroom.

General rules

It goes without saying that you should never arrive late for your court hearings. Not only is this disrespectful to the judge, but it also messes up his/her docket schedule. It likewise is disrespectful to your attorney. This legal professional made sure that he or she would be there to represent you; the least you can do is arrive on time so as to be defended. Consequently, you should give yourself plenty of time to get to the courthouse, find a parking place, go through security and find your courtroom.

Speaking of the inevitable security line, many courthouses ban cellphones. Ask your attorney ahead of time if your courthouse bans them. If so, remember to leave your phone in the glove box or console of your car. Likewise understand that you undoubtedly will need to go through a metal detector and your purse, briefcase or anything else you carry will go through a scanner. Make sure you have nothing on your person or in your hand-carries that could be considered a weapon, such as a pocket knife, pair of scissors, sharp letter opener, etc.

Courtroom attire

If you are someone who believes that wearing jeans is appropriate at all times and in all places, think again. While most judges do not ban jeans from their courtrooms, wearing them is an indication of disrespect and that you do not take court proceedings seriously. Notice that none of the attorneys or courtroom personnel wear jeans. Instead, men almost invariably wear suits and ties and women wear business suits or reasonably dressy skirts. You would do well to dress appropriately as well. Under no circumstances should you ever wear shorts, cut-offs, tee-shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants or other highly casual clothes to court. If you are a female, you likewise should not wear low-cut or other too-revealing tops.

Courtroom manners

Always address the judge as "Your Honor." Not only does the judge represent the ultimate authority in the courtroom, he or she also represents the law itself. As such, the judge deserves your respect, even if you disagree with something the judge says. Always rise when the judge enters the courtroom and remain standing until he or she sits down. Stand again when the judge leaves the courtroom. The same rules apply to the jury, assuming there is one.

Always answer the attorneys, both yours and your adversary's or the prosecutor, with "Yes/No, Sir" or "Yes/No, Ma'am." Under no circumstances should you ever use foul language when answering a question, even if you think the prosecutor or your adversary's attorney is deliberately trying to rile you.

While many of these rules may seem superficial to you, keep in mind that courtrooms are serious places, especially when you are the defendant. You best serve your own interests by dressing and behaving in a serious and respectful manner.