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Brese-LeBron Law, PLLC

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(903) 865-3803

Maintaining Composure In A Court AppearanceStrategies For Maintaining Composure And Focus During A Court Appearance

When you are in court, staying attentive and composed is vital. I have occasionally had to gently nudge clients to keep them focused during proceedings. It’s worth noting that most people don’t struggle with attention on the witness stand due to distraction; rather, it’s typically nervousness that can cause a problem.

If you find it helps you focus, consider taking a few notes. However, if this becomes more of a distraction than a help, we need to adopt a different strategy. For example, in custody cases, some clients bring along a small, discreet photograph of their child, which they can lay flat on the counsel table. When they feel their attention waning or their emotions escalating, looking at the picture helps remind them of why they’re in court in the first place. This has proven to be an effective strategy for some individuals.

If you have a small personal token or talisman that you find comforting, and it’s small enough to fit in your pocket, feel free to bring it. However, bear in mind that you can’t bring large items into the courtroom.

Preparing Clients For Testifying In Court

“Yes” and “no” are powerful words in court, particularly when you’re being questioned by opposing counsel. If a question warrants more explanation, I assure my clients that I will return to it later to elaborate or clarify. It’s not advisable to give long, elaborate answers when questioned by opposing counsel, as this offers them more opportunity to twist your words and could increase your chances of becoming frustrated with their line of questioning. Short and direct answers aren’t as open to manipulation.

If a question is posed to you and you don’t know the answer, the appropriate response is simply, “I don’t know.” Your testimony is your opportunity to state the facts as you know them; it’s not a time for speculation about what may have happened or what someone else might have been thinking. Thus, if you don’t know the answer to a question, “I don’t know” should be your response.

Preparing Clients For Witness Testimonies In Court

It’s crucial to prepare clients for the different things they might hear from other witnesses in court. This preparation can vary depending on whether the case is a criminal, civil, or family law case.

In criminal cases, we review all the discovery we have received from the prosecution, as well as any information gathered from our independent investigation. This can include police reports, witness statements, text messages, social media posts, and videos, including law enforcement body camera footage or videos taken by witnesses or the client themselves.

The aim is to give the client a comprehensive understanding of what the evidence looks like. With written or recorded witness statements, we can anticipate some of what these witnesses may say on the stand. If there are discrepancies, we then have the opportunity to challenge them with their previous statements. In this way, we can make fairly accurate predictions about what we might expect to hear from witnesses.

In family law cases, mandatory pretrial disclosures should provide a general idea of the potential testimonies, evidence, and the opposing side’s legal theories, as well as the facts supporting these theories. These disclosures are meant to be provided 30 days before the final hearing in a case, with initial disclosures made prior to the first hearing. In instances where these disclosures are not provided, I discuss with my client their previous interactions with the opposing party and any potential witnesses, like family members or friends. Based on this information, we discuss what we anticipate their testimonies to be.

We also talk about what we aim to convey through my client’s testimony—what questions I might ask and what information they might provide. This discussion can help to put the whole picture together for the client about what they might hear in the courtroom. Additionally, this conversation might jog the client’s memory about something they might not have previously considered that a witness could testify to.

The Importance Of Active Listening And Witness Interaction In Court

During witness testimony, it is crucial for clients to listen attentively. We need as many eyes and ears as possible to absorb all the information being shared. If a client notices a falsehood or inaccuracy, it’s important they inform me. However, this should be done in the least distracting way, like writing a quick note or uttering a few words.

Providing a full story at that moment can be counterproductive, as it might distract me from the ongoing testimony and potentially result in missed opportunities to object or identify further inaccuracies. These issues can later be addressed during the examination of that witness or in the direct examination of another witness.

Communicating With Witnesses

Even in non-contentious cases, it’s generally inappropriate for litigants or witnesses to interact during breaks. Even innocent interactions can appear as an attempt to improperly influence, which could damage a litigant’s credibility. While attorneys may question witnesses during recesses, this is particularly common in final or criminal trials, and even temporary order hearings in family law cases.

It’s worth noting that in courtrooms, the judge might ask if anyone is invoking the rule. This rule means that no witness can hear another witness’s testimony, nor are they allowed to discuss their own testimony with anyone except when on the witness stand or with the attorneys involved in the case.

Furthermore, attorneys should ensure they converse with the witness outside the presence and hearing of other witnesses. Violating this rule could result in a mistrial, causing the proceeding to be rescheduled. If a jury has been empaneled and the rule is violated, a new jury would have to be selected to hear the case on another day.

For more information on Maintaining Composure In A Court Appearance, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (903) 865-3803 today.

Brese-LeBron Law, PLLC

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(903) 865-3803

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