Understanding the Law
November 25, 2005
Court etiquette

Last week we looked at etiquette in the court room and we are going to continue with the same this week.

You would notice that the lawyers are very polite to one another and matters are conducted in an orderly manner in the court room. There is no doubt as to who conducts the case on both sides. {{more}} In a criminal matter, after the court calls the case number and the name of the accused the crier echoes the call so that the accused would take his or her place in the dock.

The DPP addresses the Judge and informs him that he represents the crown and gives the name of his assistant if he has one with him. The lawyer for the accused also informs the court that he/she is representing the accused. In a civil matter the leading lawyer on each side informs the court as to whom he represents.

It is not good manners for two persons to be on the floor at the same time just as it is not good manners for two persons to be speaking at the same time, so the lawyer on his feet must give way as soon as the lawyer on the other side rises to speak.

It is not necessary for lawyers to be hostile to one another. Some clients are not satisfied if their lawyers do not shout and gesticulate in court. It is not necessary for a lawyer to put on a performance in court; all that is necessary is to put forward sound legal arguments in relation to the case in hand. Some clients often wrongfully conclude that there is a sell out between the lawyers whenever they see them talking but lawyers must at times confer with each other in the interest of the client. Lawyers as a matter of court room courtesy address the other as “My friend” or “My learned Friend” when addressing a Queen’s Counsel. They are learned in the law and it is a way of showing respect. The polite approach does not mean that they do not pursue their client’s case vigorously and fairly.

Lawyers also speak in a particular way when they address the court and you may often hear,” May it please the court” or “Your honor, the court’s attention is invited” on this matter.

The lawyers are officers of the court and they set a standard so that matters could be conducted in an atmosphere of fairness and respect to all. If they behave inappropriately the judge can rebuke them. It is also the duty of all others in court including witnesses to comply with certain unwritten rules. Witnesses are judged not only by what they say but by their demeanor (behavior).

Even though he is being questioned by counsel, he, she must answer to the judge. So his/her eyes must be focused on the judge. He or she must stand or sit upright and must answer questions clearly so that the judge and the jury can hear. Do not become angry if you are cross examined fiercely by the defence. You would become agitated and this could affect your evidence adversely. Answer truthfully because you were sworn to tell the truth. If you do not you could be guilty of perjury. Any tendency to favour one side could discredit your evidence. If you think you would forget your evidence you could ask before you give evidence to refresh your memory. Be polite to all court staff. You may address the bailiffs as “Mister Bailiff” or “Mister Samuel” as the case might be.