You’ve undoubtedly endured months of anticipation as your attorney has worked tirelessly to prepare your case, and the big day is finally here: Your Court Date. While you’ve been primed and prepared down to every last detail of your case, the uncharted territory and unfamiliar protocol of a courthouse presents mixed emotions of nervousness and excitement. Remembering these tips will help you enter the courthouse confidently and present your case in the most effective way possible.
- Dress for success. Your attorney will likely wear a suit to court, but you may wear business or business-casual attire. Dressing appropriately will set the tone for your case, so try to avoid jeans, t-shirts, and tennis shoes. Expect to remain seated for extended periods of time, so dress comfortably to avoid squirming in your seat.
- Expect the unexpected. Don’t be alarmed if something unexpected happens. For example, the judge may be sick, court may be let out early, you may encounter a line outside the courthouse, or another matter may take priority over your case. These situations happen regularly, so don’t worry. Your attorney will work with you to get your court date rescheduled.
- Pass through security. Upon entering the courthouse, you will walk through a metal detector at the security checkpoint. You may be required to remove your shoes, so consider wearing a pair of shoes that are easy to take off. Pack lightly and leave chewing gum, tobacco products, food, and beverages at home. The Mecklenburg County Courthouse allows cellphones, iPads, and laptops in the courtrooms, but they must be turned off while court is in session. Make sure you leave your personal belongings at the counsel table because any technology or notes at the witness stand are subject to opposing counsel. Because rules vary among counties, check with your local courthouse to determine what is and is not allowed in court. Mecklenburg County court rules can be found here.
- Key players. Each party will sit with their respective attorney at the counsel tables during the hearing. The judge presides over the court proceedings on a platform at the front of the room, often referred to as “the bench.” Seated near the judge, the courtroom clerk administers the oath and assists the judge so that it runs smoothly. All hearings and trials are open to the public, so observers may come in to watch.
- Mind your manners. Always treat the judge and opposing counsel with respect in the courtroom. Courtrooms are solemn places, so speak softly and politely to your attorney while seated at the counsel table. Remember that everything is recorded during a court proceeding, even while you are seated. The presiding judge commands the utmost respect, so always address him or her as “Your Honor.” Don’t interrupt or argue and speak loudly and clearly when instructed to speak.
At Hatcher Law Group, we are dedicated to providing you with exceptional legal services. Our attorneys work diligently to simplify the complexities of each case, alleviating unnecessary stress and ensuring each client’s experience is as seamless as possible. Schedule a consultation with one of our family law attorneys today.
Caitlin R. Herlihy is a legal intern with Hatcher Law Group, P.C., and a Juris Doctorate candidate at Wake Forest University School of Law.