There are various reasons someone may have to appear in court, but no matter the circumstance, being prepared is crucial to ease the stress of being in a courtroom and ensuring a positive outcome.
Before Your Court Date
First and foremost, it is not required to have legal counsel represent you when you are appearing in court; however, if you have legal counsel, setting up a meeting with them at least a day prior to your hearing to guide you through the process can be beneficial. During this meeting you may go over all relevant documents, practice potential question and answer parts of the hearing, and work through any questions or concerns that you may have.
If you are representing yourself, you want to make sure that you are well prepared. Begin by organizing all of the documents pertinent to your case and make sure that you have at least four copies of each. This may include a copy of the pleadings that were filed for your hearing, a copy of your opponent’s pleadings, and any exhibits that you may offer to the court. Note that any pictures on your phone must be printed out in advance, and any videos must be submitted electronically to the court in advance in the format preferred by that specific court.
In Indiana, the courts are open to everyone. So, whether this is your first court experience, or if you feel anxious about the process, it may be helpful to observe another case similar to yours at the same court before your hearing date. This way you can see how the court conducts its proceedings.
The Day of Your Court Date
On the day of your appearance, wake up early and double check to make sure you have everything in order. Due to the unpredictability of other matters on the court’s calendar for the day, you’ll want to arrive to the courthouse earlier than your scheduled time. Allowing yourself optimal time to get ready, commute to the courthouse, meet with your attorney, and find your courtroom will ease any stress you have about being late.
The rule of thumb in a courtroom is to dress professionally, conservatively, and respectfully. This may be an outfit that you would wear to a job interview or a special occasion. Additionally, you should silence your cellphone, or any other devices you may have, when you enter the courtroom.
When it is time for the judge to hear your case, there are a few things to remember. First, when responding to or referencing the judge, act respectfully and call him or her “Your Honor.” Second, it is important for you to listen carefully and wait for your turn to respond. Do not speak out of turn. If you have legal counsel, they will most likely respond on behalf of you, but being attentive is necessary to follow along with the proceedings. If you do need to comment or are asked to elaborate on something by the judge, speak clearly, slowly, and at a volume that can be heard and understood, as an official record will be kept of the courtroom proceedings. Finally, whether you are with an attorney or by yourself, do not hesitate to ask questions. Whether you do not understand something, you think something may have been overlooked, or you are missing a specific order, someone in the courtroom will try and help you.
When it is time to leave, thank the judge and the court for their time, and stand while the judge exits the bench. If you have an attorney, take the time to debrief with them. If you do not, take the time to jot down a few notes from the appearance to help you in the future.
If you have a court date coming up and want to learn more about your rights and legal options, it is encouraged that you talk with a lawyer to make sure you are informed. Call us at (317) 825-5510 to talk to an experienced attorney who can help you answer any questions about a potential or upcoming hearing.
This McNeelyLaw LLP publication should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion of any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general information purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer on any specific legal questions you may have concerning your situation.