Understanding the Law
January 9, 2009
Court etiquette

Cases are generally conducted in a polite manner in both civil and criminal courts in the interest of justice. So instantly you would notice that as soon as one Lawyer rises to speak, the other who is on his feet would yield and take his seat.{{more}}

It is not necessary for Lawyers to be hostile to one another. Some clients are only satisfied when their Lawyers shout and gesticulate in court. They feel that he is vigorously pursuing their matters. However, it is more important to put forward sound legal arguments in relation to the case at hand than to put on a performance. Some clients often wrongfully conclude that there is a sell out between the Lawyers whenever there is polite conversation between them. But there are times when they must communicate on issues which affect or are in the interest of their clients.

Lawyers, as a matter of court room courtesy, address the other as “My friend” or “My learned Friend”. They are learned in the Law and it is a way of showing respect for the other person.

Lawyers also speak in a particular way when they address the court and you may often hear the judge being addressed as My Lord (Me Lud). You may also hear the Lawyer say: “The court’s attention is invited on this matter” or “May it please the court” when they address the Judge.

The Lawyers are officers of the court and they are required to set a standard so that matters could be conducted in an atmosphere of fairness and respect for all concerned. If they behave inappropriately the Judge would 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 a witness is being questioned by Counsel, he must answer to the Judge. So his eyes must be focused on the Judge when he makes his response. He or she must stand or sit upright and must answer questions loud and clear so that the Judge and the jury (criminal court) could hear.

There is no need to become angry during intense cross examination by the defence or the prosecutor. If a witness becomes agitated it could affect his evidence adversely. A witness must be truthful at all times, as he is sworn to tell the truth. If he does not do so, he could be guilty of perjury. Any tendency to favour one side by lying could discredit the evidence that is given. If a witness has forgotten his evidence he could ask to refresh his memory. A witness must be polite to all court staff, including the bailiff of the Court.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: [email protected]