TOP TEN – COURTROOM DEMEANOR
1. DO NOT EVER have your cellphone/electronic device on or in your hand without the Court’s permission. Putting your phone/device on “vibrate” does not qualify as being turned off. Even just holding it in your hand will give the Court the impression that you are checking emails and texts. This is not the kind of impression you want to make on the court and it is extremely disrespectful and rude. Keep in mind that the Judge or Magistrate cannot tell from the bench whether or not your phone/electronic device is actually on or not.
2. See Tip #1 and apply it to your clients as well.
3. DO dress in appropriate business attire. Dressing like you are heading out to go “clubbing” or to a ball game will diminish your credibility with the Court. If litigation is your chosen career path your credibility is your “stock in trade". Business attire also means your clothes should be clean and appropriately pressed, or at least don’t look like you just pulled them out of laundry basket like you used to do in college. Remember, you have made it to “the big show” and you want to look the part.
4. See Tip #3 and apply it to your clients.
5. DO NOT speak directly to opposing counsel during a proceeding. All comments/statements should be directed to the Court. If opposing counsel is interrupting or being rude, etc., just ask the Court to instruct counsel to stop. Also, keep in mind that the Court is your audience, not opposing counsel or the opposing party. It is not your job to convince the other side of your client’s position; that opportunity was lost when settlement discussions failed and the case ended up in the courtroom.
6. DO speak clearly and concisely. DO NOT mumble or run your words together. Most courtrooms around the state record all proceedings electronically. If the transcriber cannot understand what is being said, then it is impossible to produce a clear and complete transcript. More importantly, if the Court cannot understand what is being said, the Court will be unable to consider it when making a decision in the case.
7. See Tip #6 and apply it to your clients. This is especially true if English is not your client’s native language and/or if your client has a heavy accent. If in doubt, file a request for an interpreter in advance of your hearing or trial to assist your client.
8. DO NOT engage in personal attacks, name calling or otherwise personally criticizing opposing counsel or the opposing party or witnesses. Remember, you are in court as a professional and are there to advocate for your client. Personal attacks will not only reflect negatively on you, but can potentially affect the credibility of your client’s case as well. Doing so can leave you wide open for sanctions from the Court and/or a grievance from your client.
9. With the exception of raising objections, DO NOT interrupt or speak on “top” of opposing counsel, a party, a witness or the Court. Again, this is rude and disrespectful. Keep in mind that under Maryland Rules, you are not required to state the basis of your objection unless the Court instructs you to do so. Just raise your objection and wait for instructions from the Court.
10. DO keep in mind that presenting an articulate argument to the Court is integral to your job in representing your client. DO NOT however, argue with the Court regarding the Court’s various rulings. If you feel especially aggrieved by a ruling from the Court, politely ask the Court to allow you to make your record and then do so in a clear and concise manner. You will have further opportunity, by way of appeal or exceptions, to further address your dissatisfaction with a particular ruling by the Court.
BONUS 11. Do not chew gum in Court and do not put the chewed gun under the counsel table when you are caught with it.
Magistrate Lisa S. Segel
Montgomery County Circuit Court
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