My experience guiding my clients through the litigation process has been vast and varied over the course of my practice. I’ve had clients do it all right and I’ve had clients do it all wrong – and although what’s contained in these pages may seem like common sense, or things that your mother taught you – all these tales of woe and caution exist because someone didn’t do right, and it had a negative impact on their case.
The truth is, no matter how straightforward the rules of behavior may seem, failure to adhere to them can have severe repercussions. It is crucial to remember the effects our actions have on the people around us, extending to life in general and the courtroom in particular.
Maintaining proper decorum and demeanor during legal proceedings influences every decision-maker, including jurors and judges. Any lack of respect or inappropriate behavior can negatively affect the credibility of the litigants and witnesses.
The Influence Of Courtroom Decorum On All Participants
A person’s behavior in a courtroom setting is crucial, regardless of whether the decision maker is a single judge, or a jury of six or twelve members of the community. Everything you say or do before the court contributes to how you are perceived. The process of narrating your side of the story involves presenting various forms of evidence, including testimony from witnesses and parties involved in the litigation.
If a witness is found to be untruthful, it can severely harm their credibility and the overall integrity of the party’s case the witness testified to support. This is at least equally true for the litigants themselves, and maybe even more so. If a party appears hostile, or fails to communicate effectively, their credibility is irreparably damaged. Conversely, a person who can express themselves well and interact respectfully with court personnel and their attorney may enhance their case’s credibility, even if the core facts seem shaky at best.
Appearance, Behavior, And Demeanor: Forgotten Factors
Your appearance, and overall demeanor must match your courtroom setting. Consider a family law case where a decision about a child’s primary custodian is at stake. If one party presents themselves as disorganized and inattentive during the proceedings, it negatively influences the jury’s perception of their capacity to take care of a child. On the contrary, a party who is composed, coherent, and presents a well-planned approach will appear more trustworthy. Think of it this way: when a judge or jury is deciding with whom a child will primarily live, they will be asking themselves, “would I want my child to live with this person? Would I want to live with this person?” Failure to follow the guidelines those decision makers have for parents is likely to mean that the child will be primarily living in another home.
This principle holds true in criminal cases as well. For this example, let’s think about an assault trial. A victim who appears erratic, inconsistent, and inappropriately dressed will likely lose credibility. Meanwhile, an accused individual who remains calm and respectful during the proceedings can positively influence the case outcome. Conversely, if the person accused of an assault appears angry, has outbursts, or appears to be turning red or looking almost as though they are puffing up and physically looking larger, a fact finder is going to take that into consideration in determining if they believe the State’s evidence in the trial. This emphasizes the importance of maintaining the right demeanor and decorum throughout legal proceedings.
For more information on Guiding Clients Through The Court Process, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (903) 865-3803 today.