If you are new to the courtroom, you may not yet know how to act in front of the judge. Whether you are being called for a crime, acting as a witness, visiting as a spectator, or even taking part in proceedings as a member of the legal team for the first time, keep these tips in mind at all times.
1. Arrive on time and prepared
The court runs to strict timings, and no one will appreciate it if you are late. It is a matter of common courtesy to be there on time. Set off early, know your route, and know the courtroom you are heading to before you get there. This will help you to get there in a timely fashion and without delays. You shouldn’t have any excuse for being late.
2. Dress and groom yourself appropriately
Make sure that you look the part when you arrive in court. Sober dress, such as a suit, is generally encouraged. You should look smart and not like you are going out for a walk or out to a bar. Think about what you would wear to a job interview. You want to be somewhere in the same area, looking smart and professional. Try to keep your hair, make-up, and facial hair in a conservative style as well. If you have any piercings and can take them out, you should do so. Take off hats and sunglasses and put them down or away.
3. Switch off your phone
If you bring a phone to the courtroom, make sure that it is switched off. If you need to leave it on for an emergency, make sure that it is set to silent without any vibrations. These days, smart watches and tablets can also be a nuisance if they buzz or vibrate.
4. Don’t eat
Make sure you eat before you arrive, as eating of any kind is prohibited in court. You should not chew gum, either. As a member of the legal team, if you so much as have a sore throat and think you will need a cough sweet, be sure to seek out permission from the judge first.
5. Be silent
When watching proceedings, and especially when entering or leaving court, be silent. There may be digital recordings in place and you may disturb those already in the court if you make any noise. When watching, be as quiet as possible so as not to distract members of the court.
6. Avoid gestures and facial expressions
When sitting in the public gallery, be aware that the judge can see you. If you gesture, make facial expressions, or laugh, you will be noticed, and you may be asked to leave. You may even end up in need of a lawyer’s help yourself. This is a serious place and it should be treated with the respect that it deserves.
7. Rise when the judge enters
Make sure that you stand up when the judge enters the room. This is a gesture of respect and is mandatory except in cases of disability. Do not sit down until the judge has taken his or her seat first. Australian custom demands legal representatives to bow to the judge, with a measured nod of the head and shoulders, before they sit.
There are a lot of things to navigate in the courtroom, and you may find it hard at first to remember everything. So long as you remain respectful, and don’t speak unless spoken to, you will always be better off. Keep this in mind and you should be fine!
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