Going to court can be an intimidating event, especially if you have never been there before. Standing in front of a judge who has the power to make decisions that will affect your life? That alone can be frightening. Add the formality of the process and lack of familiarity with the law to the situation, and it is no surprise that most people don’t want to go to court.
We are not here to scare you. Getting experienced counsel to handle your legal argument goes a long way in helping you obtain a successful outcome and feel “ready” to face a judge. Is there anything you can do to help regain some control and give your case its best chance?
You don’t have to go to law school to help your case
Even when judges uphold the standard of impartiality required by law, remember that they are human. Judges can become annoyed just like any other person, or they might subconsciously judge a book by its cover, even when they think they aren’t.
The good news is that you can help curb these human reactions, and you don’t need any legal training to do so. Just be cautious of a few things:
- Appearance: Dress appropriately for court. Don’t wear flip-flops, tank tops or a baseball cap. Treat court like an interview where you want to make the best first impression. When judges see that you have taken the time to dress up for court, it can show them that you respect their authority and take the process seriously.
- Distractions: Have you ever been annoyed by a person checking their cellphone or talking in a theater? Would you take the phone away if your child was texting while you were having a serious conversation? This one is not brain surgery. Silence the cellphone. Judges hate those distractions too.
- Interruptions: In a conversation with anyone, one of the most frustrating experiences is being interrupted while you are trying to explain yourself, your stance or your emotions. Do you think a judge likes that behavior either? It might difficult to do, but bite your tongue when the others are speaking. You will get your chance to tell your side, so don’t interrupt.
- Emotion: It is perfectly ok for you to have emotions, but keep them in check while in the courtroom. This includes avoiding non-verbal displays of emotion such as rolling your eyes, crossing your arms or huffing and puffing when the other party speaks. The judge is there to determine a fair result based on the law and the facts.
- Expectations: Do not set them higher than the law allows, because you won’t be satisfied with the result. Do not expect to “take your spouse to the cleaners” or “prevent a good parent from ever seeing their child.” That’s not how the law works in California. Don’t choose a “yes man” for an attorney. Choose one who can explain the law, apply it to your situation and give you an honest assessment of what outcome you could expect in court.
What else do you think is in your control?