Understanding the Law
May 28, 2010
Court Etiquette

The Judge is in charge of the court and the lawyers representing the parties present on behalf of their clients. They are very polite to one another and matters are conducted in an orderly manner in the court room. In a criminal matter, after the court clerk 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.{{more}} 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 in the same manner.

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

It is not necessary for lawyers to be hostile to one another. Some clients are not satisfied if their lawyer does 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 there is polite conversation between lawyers, but lawyers must at times confer one with the other in the interest of the client. Lawyers as a matter of court room courtesy speaks about the other as “my friend” or “my learned Friend” or simply “learned 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 are required to set a standard so that matters could be conducted in an atmosphere of fairness and respect for all. 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 he is being questioned by counsel, he/she must answer to the judge. So his/her eyes must focus on the judge. He or she must stand or sit upright and must answer questions clearly so that the judge and the jury could hear.

There is no need to become angry during intense cross examination by the defence. 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 he could be guilty of perjury. Any tendency to favour one side could discredit his evidence. If he has forgotten his evidence he could ask to refresh his memory. A witness must be polite to all court staff including the bailiff. A bailiff may be addressed as “Mister Bailiff”.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com