Legal Lessons: Ten tips on court etiquettes for lawyers in order to avoid getting ticked off by judges
By Shahid P Sayed
In January 2023, a lawyer was removed from the court premises by the Guwahati High Court for wearing jeans pant to the hearing. Hon. Justice Sarana ordered, “Matter stands adjourned today as Mr BK Mahajan, learned counsel for the petitioner is attired in jeans pants”.
The court also directed that the matter should be placed before the Chief Justice as well as the Bar Council of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. This writer had a personal experience of such unprofessional behaviour when a lawyer arguing before the District Court, Aurangabad had ‘Gutkha’ in his mouth.
The court showed great restraint in asking the lawyer to “go and spit out whatever that is in your mouth and then come back to argue”. The court, displaying patience, resumed the hearing upon the lawyer's return as if the interruption hadn't occurred.
Such incidents are increasing in court rooms throughout India, causing significant distress for both the Bar and the Bench. In the world of law and justice, court etiquette plays a crucial role in shaping the perception of individuals involved in legal proceedings, your behaviour and attitude in the court room can have a significant impact on the outcome of a case.
In this article, we will explore what court etiquette is, why they matter, and provide valuable tips on how to maintain them effectively.
Understanding The Court Etiquette
Court etiquette encompasses the behaviour, attitude and conduct of everyone present in a court room. This includes judges, lawyers, witnesses, defendants, and even spectators. Maintaining proper court etiquette is essential for several reasons:
1. Respect for the Legal Process: Courts are where the pursuit of justice takes place and respecting this process is vital for maintaining the integrity of the judicial system.
2. Impartiality: A courtroom must be a neutral and unbiased space. Maintaining proper etiquette ensures that everyone is treated fairly and equally.
3. Professionalism: Lawyers and legal professionals must uphold high standards of professionalism to ensure that their clients' interests are adequately represented.
4. Order and Efficiency: Proper courtroom etiquette helps in maintaining order and efficiency during legal proceedings, preventing unnecessary disruptions.
Tips to Maintain Court Etiquette
1. Dress Appropriately: Dressing in appropriate, business-like attire is essential. This applies to all individuals in the courtroom, from lawyers to witnesses. Avoid overly casual or provocative clothing.
2. Punctuality: Arriving on time is crucial. Late and delayed entry can disrupt the proceedings and show disrespect for the court's time.
3. Silence and Respect: Maintain silence when the judge or opposing counsel is speaking. Always stand when addressing the judge and use formal titles, such as "Your Honour." Or “Mi Lord’ depending on which court you are appearing.
4. Control Emotions: Emotions can run high in a courtroom, but it's crucial to remain composed. Avoid outbursts, gestures, or expressions that may convey bias or disrespect.
5. Address the Court: When speaking in court, address your remarks to the judge, not the opposing counsel or other individuals. Wait for your turn to speak and avoid interrupting.
6. Be Truthful: Honesty is paramount. Witnesses must provide truthful testimony and lawyers should not present false information to the court.
7. Avoid Side Conversations: During proceedings one must avoid engaging in side conversations with others in the courtroom, including clients. Focus on the matter at hand.
8. Stay Attentive: Pay close attention to the proceedings, even when you're not directly involved. This shows respect for the court and ensures you're aware of relevant information.
9. Follow Court Rules: Familiarize yourself with the specific rules and procedures of the court where you are involved. Different courts may have unique expectations.
10. Maintaining Composure: If faced with a challenging situation or opposing counsel's tactics, maintain your composure. Address issues through proper legal channels rather than reacting emotionally. Court etiquette is a fundamental aspect of the legal system that ensures the fair and efficient administration of justice. Adhering to proper courtroom etiquette is essential.
By following the tips outlined in this article, you can contribute to a respectful, impartial and orderly courtroom environment, ultimately upholding the principles of justice that our legal system is built upon. Being the officers of the courts, the lawyers have additional responsibility to maintain the dignity of the courtroom at all times.
Law schools, listen up! It's high time we add the "Courtroom Etiquette 101" to the curriculum. We can't risk turning our aspiring lawyers into accidental courtroom acrobats, getting tossed out by high court judges. Let's avoid legal limbo and get those etiquettes polished before we witness more judicial embarrassments!
[Adv Shahid P Sayed is a senior High Court lawyer who has been writing consistently on legal affairs, law and justice. He can be contacted at email@example.com]