Although television my have you believe something different, in reality the courtroom is a place of tradition and rules. The tradition and rules exist to create an environment of solemnity and gravity where important issues can be decided. Behavior that negatively impacts the solemnity and gravity of the courtroom should be avoided.
Here are some basic rules:
- Stand when court is opened, recessed or adjourned for the day.
- Stand when addressing or being addressed by the judge.
- In Wake County, the deputy sheriff will call the court to order.
- Listen to the deputy, he or she will give instructions at the beginning of court and frequently the instructions will be based on the particular judges rules in his or her courtroom.
- Don’t wear a hat or ball cap in the courtroom.
- Do not approach the judge or a witness without asking for permission of the court.
- The space between the bar and the bench is reserved for attorneys and court personnel Don’t go into that area unless directed by the deputy, the judge, or your attorney.
- The witness stand is also called the dock. Prior to testifying you will be sworn or affirmed by the judge or the clerk either at counsel table or once you are in the dock.
- In NC courts, witnesses are normally examined by the attorney from a seated position behind one of the counsel tables.
- Counsel or pro se parties should request permission before approaching the judge or a witness.
- Cell phones and pagers should be turned off or in a vibrate mode. Computers should be used with audio off.
Use common sense and follow these rules and you will be on your way to making a favorable impression.