None of us ever want to appear in court, but many people are required to do so at least once in their lives. This could be to testify as a witness to a crime, to give evidence, in divorce proceedings or financial disputes. Courtrooms are intimidating places for anyone unused to the procedure and orderly fashion of legal proceedings.
Despite their imposing nature, court proceedings are designed to be straightforward enough for anybody to understand. In this article you will find simple, practical advice for when you have to appear in court. Let’s get to it!
Testifying As A Witness
Testifying as a witness to a crime is one of the most nerve wracking court experiences you can have. Of course, you just want to help serve justice, but the nerves and the pressures of recounting events on the stand can get the better of people sometimes.
What should you expect when you are testifying in court? Firstly, expect to be put under a little pressure by the opposing lawyer. Their job is to get the story from you, but they may ask questions that are phrased in a confusing way. Try not to freak out about the prospect of answering a question wrongly. If you don’t understand, just ask them to clarify what they mean. You are just a person, and you can’t be expected to know everything or get it all right.
If you need some advice for the day of your testimony, here are some key pieces of advice for testifying as a witness!
- Be receptive to any change of circumstances. If you expect things to happen a certain way, but in the end the events unfold differently, you must be receptive to these changes. If you come across as difficult or resistant, this could be used against you. Although you are not accused of any crime, it is important to comply with all instructions.
- Follow the lead of the judge and lawyers. These people might come across as intimidating, but their job is to allow you to be helpful in this case. They would not have called you unless it was vital, so do not underestimate your role in solving the case. Follow their lead and answer questions as best you can.
- Speak from the heart. The jury wants to see not just the facts, but the manner in which you deliver them. Speak from the heart and do not mince words – the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Suing Another Party For Damages
If you are taking somebody to court and suing them for damages, you are therefore known as the claimant. This means you are the one instigating the case and bringing it before a judge. It is crucial in this situation to hire an attorney to represent you in all legal proceedings.
Your lawyer will take you through how the specificity of this case will pan out. They will gather evidence from you in order to bring the case against the person or company you are suing. Before your court date, they will remain in contact with you to ensure you are prepared for court. This might include instructing you on your conduct before, during and after the hearing. Make sure to adhere carefully to your attorney’s instructions; they are the professional, and you must let them lead the way.
What happens if you lose a court case?
If you lose your court case – meaning the judge rules against you – this can be very upsetting and frustrating for you and your team. You will have likely spent many dollars and many hours investing in this court case, so for it to be denied is the last thing you want. However, there is always an appeals process that is worth pursuing.
This is called a civil appeal. Your lawyer will talk you through what happens during a civil appeal if the situation arises that you need to go through with one. This can be a lengthy process, but can often yield satisfying results if the court changes its ruling.
The Etiquette of Court
Now comes court etiquette. Courtrooms are places steeped in tradition that goes back to the very birth of democracy. Lawyers and judges take the traditions and etiquette of court very seriously; as a citizen who is appearing in court, you are expected to adhere to court rules and etiquette to the best of your ability.
Here are some rules of thumb to know before you step into a courtroom.
- Make an effort with your appearance. Although we live in a world that is increasingly casual and loose with clothing rules, these relaxations don’t apply to court. Make sure you wear your best suit or other smart clothing, keep your hair neat and your shoes polished! This will automatically put you in high regard in the eyes of court officials. Although this might seem like a regressive tradition, it still stands today.
- Stay silent unless you are asked to speak. Interruptions are not favored well in courtrooms. Unless something is very wrong, it is best to stay quiet until you are asked to speak by an official. If you are concerned, perhaps speak to your attorney in private to ask any questions.
Sitting On A Jury
Being called for jury service is a fantastic honor that you should take very seriously. Although it can be disruptive to your working and family life, jury service is a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in one of the pillars of democracy. If you are called for jury service, make sure to conduct yourself with decorum and seriousness at all times. After all, a person’s future is potentially at stake.
If you are nervous about appearing in court for the first time, you aren’t alone! Make sure to use this helpful guide to assuage your fears and focus on what’s ahead. Participating in court proceedings is scary sometimes, but the system is designed to assist you in any way possible.