Know Where and When
This is your case. You need to be responsible for showing up on time AND in the right location. The information is on the order that set the hearing. Know where you will park ahead of time, and don’t wait until the time of your hearing to figure it out. You can call the court to get more information. Arrive at least 30-45 minutes before your hearing. Plan for security. Do not bring pepper spray, decorative handcuff keys, pockets full of coins, or leave your belt on.
Cover anything that may be perceived as inappropriate. This includes tattoos, untraditional piercings, and body modifications. Business casual is acceptable. No hats, sweats, shorts, miniskirts, tight clothing, or exposed chest/thighs/midriffs. Wear minimal jewelry and natural make-up.
If your case is for non-payment of a debt or obligation, it is important that you do not show up to court in a perfectly tailored outfit with expensive jewelry and a flashy watch. The message you send is that you can afford these items and therefore you can pay your obligations but are choosing not to.
Remember you are In Court
It is surprising the number of parties that appear in court and lose their case due to their own behavior. It is never appropriate to call the judge bro, brother, cuz, cousin, my friend, homie, or a racial slur. You should not use profanity or name call. These statements exists because this happens daily.
Be mindful of your manners. Control your tone. Avoid interrupting, especially the judge. A good way to avoid this is to take a breath before answering a question or talking. Practice it. It will also allow you to gather your thoughts. More importantly, it will allow your attorney the time to object when necessary.
Be mindful of your eye contact and body language. If the judge asks questions, look at him/her. Avoid looking too relaxed – this isn’t vacation. Do not react emotionally. Gasping, shaking your head, scribbling, and hand gestures do not help your position. It is perceived as an interruption. Instead, take quick notes to address when it is your turn.
Don’t argue with the other party, their counsel, or the judge. You will be asked questions. Some you might not like. Answer the question if you can. If you can’t, state that you cannot answer the question.
Don’t get upset
You are emotional and that is justified, but if you get upset that is the only message the Court will receive. If it really comes to a point that you cannot handle the questions, ask for a quick break. Usually, the court will provide a break every 60-90 minutes.
Your every word is being recorded in the courtroom even when court is not in session. When speaking use verbal responses. Avoid mmhms, nods, thumbs up, etc. The courtroom has strong microphones that need to pick up on what is being said for the record. This also means that you need to be aware of what you say at all times while in the courtroom. There is a mute button, use it.
Brittany Labadie is the Managing Partner at Lewis Labadie. She has been working with Lewis Labadie since it opened. Her current focus is with adoption cases, including juvenile adoptions, adult adoptions, foster care adoptions, same-sex adoption, surrogacy adoptions, and when necessary termination of parental rights. She works throughout the State of Arizona.