YOUR COURT APPEARANCE AND DEMEANOR
Even a judge, who has a great deal of experience in a courtroom setting, derives the basis of his opinion more from what he observes in the courtroom than from what he hears. He or she cannot help but form an impression of the parties themselves. Therefore, your appearance and demeanor is of utmost importance. Study and remember the following checklist:
1. Dress appropriately. You should dress conservatively. Men should wear a coat and tie, while a woman should wear a basic, simple dress or suit. Both must avoid loud or flashy clothing and limit the amount of jewelry worn.
2. Be prompt and punctual in arriving at court. Your attorney will tell you when and where you should be on the day of trial.
3. Do not discuss your case. Do not talk to the witnesses or the other party when you are in the courtroom. You should not talk to your attorney during testimony. You may keep a list of really important points for your attorney to review before the testimony is concluded.
4. Pay attention to all of the witnesses. If you are not interested, the judge certainly will not be interested.
5. Be polite and control your emotions. Do not allow the other side to make you "lose your cool." The judge will not react favorably to rude, sarcastic, and highly emotional behavior.
6. During recesses or lunch breaks, avoid all contact with participants in the trial, other than your attorney.
YOUR TESTIMONY IN COURT
Your testimony is the single, most important aspect of the trial. This checklist, along with a pre-trial conference with your attorney prior to trial, will assist you in making your best impression.
1. Listen carefully to each question. Understand each question before you answer. Take your time. If necessary, ask that the question be repeated. If you do not understand the question, simply say so.
2. Tell the truth. In a lawsuit, as in all other matters, honesty is the best policy. Being caught in even an insignificant lie can effect your case significantly. Additionally, telling the truth means more than refraining from telling a deliberate falsehood. Telling the truth requires you to testify accurately about your personal knowledge.
3. Don't guess. If you don't know the answer, say you don't know.
4. Speak up clearly and distinctly. Do not talk to fast. The judge and the court reporter must be able to hear and understand what you are saying. Look a the judge and give an audible answer to the questions. Do not nod your head yes or no. The judge may have looked down and the court reporter will not be able to transcribe your answer.
5. Answer the question and then quit talking. Do not volunteer information.
6. Keep your answers clear and simple. Give brief and concise answers in a positive fashion. Do not begin to ramble.
7. Beware of questions asking for figures. If you make an estimate, make certain the judge understands that this is not a precise figure, but only an estimate.
8. Do not memorize a story. Testify in your own words, answering the questions as they are asked.
9. If one of the attorney's makes an objection, wait. Do not answer the question until the judge has ruled on the objection and you have been asked to continue.
10. Do not let the other attorney put words in your mouth. The other attorney will say, "Isn't it true that..." If what he says is not true or part of what he says is not true, do not agree. Insist on your version of the story.
11. Be courteous. Being courteous is one of the easiest ways to make a good impression on the judge. Answer "Yes, Sir or Ma'am," and No, Sir or Ma'am" to the attorneys, stand when the judge enters the room, and address the judge as "Your Honor."
12. Never lose your temper or argue. The other attorney may try to walk you into this trap, hoping you will blurt out something that can be used against you.
13. Avoid making jokes and sarcastic remarks. A lawsuit is a serious matter
14. ALWAYS MAKE DIRECT EYE CONTACT! WHEN YOU ARE ANSWERING A QUESTION, MAKE SURE THAT YOU ARE LOOKING DIRECTLY INTO THE EYES OF THE PERSON WHOM ASKED THE QUESTION, OR LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE JURY WHEN RESPONDING. (SHIFTING EYES AND STARRING DOWNWARD PORTRAYS YOUR ANSWER NOT TO BE TRUTHFUL.) DIRECT EYE CONTACT PORTRAYS YOUR CONFIDENCE IN YOUR ANSWER AND THAT YOU ARE BEING STRAIGHT FORWARD AND HONEST WITH YOUR RESPONSE.