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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Courtroom Decorum--Part 2

Here’s the rest of Cara Putnam’s article, Courtroom Decorum. If you haven't already, check out Cara’s blog.

6) “You gotta lose ‘em some of the time. When you do, lose ‘em right. New York Yankees and Mets manager Casey Stengel

Much as every attorney wants to win, there will be cases they lose. Even the best lose occasionally. So when we lose, we need to lose well. There are mechanisms in place (like motions to reconsider, motions to correct errors, and appeals) to let a judge know when we think he made a bad decision. Telling him right there in the courtroom, isn’t it. And it usually won’t score points with the judge.

7) “Never interrupt me when I’m trying to interrupt you.” Sir Winston Churchill

Don’t do it. Period.

Okay, I’ll expand. Don’t ever interrupt a judge when he’s talking unless you want to apologize and grovel. Judges really don’t like to be interrupted. Sometimes we get so excited about our argument or a mistake opposing counsel has made that we can’t stop ourselves. But we really need to. Even when it’s exceptionally hard to do.

8) “Half a truth is often a great lie.” Benjamin Franklin

You know that promise that witnesses have to make: I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God? Well, it applies to attorneys, too. We can’t color the truth. We have an ethical obligation to let the judge know about cases that hurt us as well as those that help us. And we can’t

9) “There is absolutely no substitute for a genuine lack of preparation.” Anonymous

Nothing is worse than showing up to court knowing you haven’t prepared well. Sometimes there’s not much an attorney can do about that. The time they had blocked for preparation gets eaten by a more pressing emergency. Some attorneys have a mind sharp enough and a photographic memory that allows them to get away with minimum preparation. The rest of us have to prepare the old fashioned way.

When I have a hearing coming, I usually review the pleadings, the case chronology, important cases and notes. Then I make an outline to help refresh my memory if I freeze. But every attorney will have a different approach. They just have to have some system (or lack thereof) to prepare.

10) “Presidential candidates don’t chew gum.” Presidential adviser Theodore C. Sorensen

It’s kind of hard to speak eloquently when chomping on gum. Attorneys are also still held to a professional standard of dress. That means suits most of the time for men. Occasionally, a suit coat and nice pants. Women have a bit more leeway. We can wear dresses, suits, slacks and sweater or blazer. But the image we portray in the courtroom needs to be professional and competent.

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.


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