On being an Ethical Emperor Penguin: Ethics and Etiquette in the Court

28th Aug 2015

How You Should Act In Court

The law is one of those professions that still maintains an air of prestige and conservatism. Rather like a nearly extinct bird, the profession has preserved much of its heritage and plumage. In criminal matters judges and solicitors continue to wear robes but in Western Australia did away with wigs in 2010. When going to Court, one should bear conservatism in mind. If you have a suit by all means “suit up!” otherwise neat formal dress is appropriate.

If you arrive early and your matter is being heard first you should sit and wait quietly with your lawyer inside the appropriate room. The court officer will say “All rise” at which point you should stand and bow towards the magistrate. If the court is already in session then when entering and leaving the court room, one should remember to bow towards the presiding magistrate. Almost like bowing to an emperor but from the waist quickly and politely.

Remember to turn off and silence your mobile phone. Ring tones might sound amazing to you but can be a huge embarrassment in a quiet room. Please don’t talk to others near you when court is in session, it distracts the judicial officer from hearing evidence and the court officer will likely have you removed.

Time is a precious commodity in our modern day lives that we seem to unwillingly ration in small quantities. Sure everyone has limited time but then court must hear many matters a day and make accurate decisions upon them. Ensure you don’t hold up the court by mysteriously disappearing when you have already checked in with the court officer you are delaying everyone including yourself.

When addressing the judge use such terms as “Your Honour” and always speak in a formal and proper way. Politeness will help you immeasurably in gaining the respect of the judge. Usually your lawyer will be the one speaking on your behalf, but if called to the stand then act as above. Remember to always be courteous and friendly towards court officers and security guards, they will make sure you don’t miss your trial time and help you out. They will even give you plenty of warning so you can wrap up any last minute matters with your lawyers before going in.

How Your Lawyer Should Act In Court

As lawyers of the court our paramount duty is to the Court. We must make sure that the Court’s time is not wasted by trivial matters and that we act in a fair way. We must balance this duty with our duty to you the client. We have a duty to act competently so if something falls outside our area of expertise we will either seek help or advise you to seek help elsewhere, as the case may be.

When addressing opposing counsel in correspondence we need to be candid and professional. Sure you might want to “win points” by showing you are in the right. However the law is not a rugby game and you should know we cannot abuse or threaten the other party. Such threats will just hurt your case in the long run and the other side could see it as an early Christmas present. They could use such evidence of negative language against you as evidence in Court.

The reality of the practice of law is, it’s not like it appears in television shows.

Ethical conduct is a hallmark of our profession and we must comply with professional conduct rules similar to those outlined above at all times. In our continual pursuit of justice, ethics and etiquette play an important and necessary role.

For legal help and assistance, please contact DCH Legal.