When appearing in court, you will face a variety of opponents, with differing styles and etiquette. Regardless of your opponent, how do you obtain and maintain a good reputation?
- Bicker and sledge: the Judge will notice how YOU handle this and they don’t like to act as disciplinarians for adult practitioners.
- Talk fast: speak with reasonable pace and volume. If you hand up a document to the Judicial Officer, don’t continue to talk whilst the Judicial Officer reads the document. They will usually raise their head and re-establish eye contact when they wish YOU to continue.
- Be late: if you are going to be unavoidably delayed in arriving at Court, communicate this to your opponent and the Judicial Officer, its a matter of courtesy.
- Talk and move: when he oath/affirmation is being administered. Make sure anyone whom YOU are responsible for observes that as well.
- Leave mobile phone on: prior to entering the Court, or put on silent. Instruct witnesses, clients etc of the same.
- Not turn up: Let the Judicial Officer know ASAP. Its not acceptable to simply not turn up without explanation. If asked where you have been, be frank and don’t invent an explanation. If YOU do, it will affect your future trustworthiness.
- Explain reasoning: As a general rule, the Judicial Officer only needs to know your application or position without necessarily knowing why you are making that application or taking that position.
- Ask to be excused: No need when appearing in a busy call over list or a mention list
- Be overfamiliar with the Bench: Even if YOU know the Judicial Officer personally avoid behaviour that gives that impression, especially if the other party is unrepresented. It gives the impression that YOU may be given special favour with court. This extends to your dealings with the Associate or Court Officer before the Judicial Officer comes onto the bench.
- Give personal opinion: The court doesn’t want to know what YOU personally think, the court wants your submissions.
- Hold Eye contact: Look at the Judicial Officer when bowing and addressing the Judicial Officer.
- Announce Appearance: If YOU are appearing before a Judicial Officer that does not know YOU, make sure you spell your surname clearly to them. This assists the Bench and the transcript.
- Be Patient: Wait your turn to address the Judicial Officer, do not interrupt an opponent’s address.
- Be Prepared: Who are YOU representing? What relief is sought? What are the issues in the case? Aim to have a conversation with your opponent prior to a directions hearing, so as to reach consent , if possible.
- Explain – Oath/Affirmation: Explain the choice to your clients who are facing being called as witnesses
- Be Reasonable and Polite: Regardless of how your opponent acts outside or inside court, always aim to be reasonable and polite, as manners are never out of fashion. Recognise practitioners are assisting clients to progress their matter in the most cost efficient, timely and professional manner. It is not the practitioners “argument”, so don’t take the matter personally, as its the practitioners role to be the voice of reason for the client and to ensure the matter progresses effectively and the court process is as smooth as possible.
- When Making an Adjournment Application To Adjourn a Hearing: Inform your opponent as soon as possible, this includes the grounds for the application. With your opponents consent you should notify the court of the application
Original content with information below included:
“Legitimate Forensic Behaviour – Observations from the Bench on Ethics and Etiquette in Court” His Honour Judge Richard Cogswell SC
“Some Observations on District Court Advocacy: A Judge’s perspective” His Honour Judge Stephen Walmsley SC