Enter your Email

Powered by FeedBlitz

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Courtroom Decorum--Part 1

This week, we have another contribution from Cara Putman to help suspense and mystery writers who want to include courtroom scenes in their stories. This is Part 1. Part 2 will come out later this week, so stay tuned. . .

Courtroom Decorum (Part 1)

I recently saw a great article in the May 2007 issue of the American Bar Association’s Litigation Section’s Tips from the Trenches. The article, Ten Proven Ways to Irritate a Judge by Judge Michael B. Hyman, was right on.

To aid you in writing your courtroom scenes, I’m using his ten points as a launching pad for courtroom decorum:

1) “If you're not ready to come here and go by my rules, you're not going to come in.” Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen

In my experience, each judge has slightly different rules about how his or her courtroom will run. Accordingly, you have some leeway to write these scenes. However, the courtroom is that judge’s domain, so if an attorney doesn’t follow the rules, then he’s going to lose points with that judge. Plain and simple.

Also, there are federal and state trial rules which dictate what has to be done at each stage of a case. Then there are the rules of evidence and civil or criminal procedure that have to be followed, too. So make sure you check with an attorney to get all those details right. Within those rules, you have a lot of flexibility on how to write a scene.

2) “I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them.” English author E. V. Lucas

You can read the judge’s comments, but let me tell you common sense prevails. Most judges are overworked right now, making their time exceedingly precious. Therefore, a late attorney, who messes up the balance of the day’s schedule, is not going to win friends with the court. He’ll also annoy opposing counsel who is forced to wait on him. I’ve seen more than one judge that I respect take other attorneys to task for disrespecting the court’s time.

3) “Etiquette means behaving yourself a little better than is absolutely necessary.” Humorist Will Cuppy

The judge is surrounded by staff who can make your job easier if you respect them. Or make your life miserable if you treat them with less than the courtesy they deserve. It also means treating the opposing counsel and party with the common decency that every human being deserves. Even when you have to grit your teeth to do it. I’ve found I can be a much better advocate for my clients when I am able to work with someone who will treat me with the same respect that I extend to them. As they say, it isn’t personal…it really is business.

4) “Noise is the most impertinent of all forms of interruption.” Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer

You know how every time you go to the theater or really anywhere anymore, there will be signs or announcements telling you to turn off your cell phone. Don’t forget to do that in court, too. Enough said.

5) “Having a sharp tongue can cut your own throat.” Anonymous

Oh, the judges I know would underline and bold this one. Be civil. Civility seems to be dying in parts of the legal profession. In fact, there are commissions, panels, etc., looking for ways to bring back the good ole days. The key: live by the Golden Rule. Even in the courtroom.

Disclaimer: This post is not to be used as legal advice. This is only to assist writers in writing scenes in their novels regarding the law.


Post a Comment

<< Home