Tips on How to Behave in Court

Lawyers are in court all the time.  It is likely that you will not have spent nearly as much time in a courtroom. Learning appropriate courtroom behavior will help you to fit in and feel more comfortable. Then you can concentrate on presenting your case. 

Note: Small claims court is more informal, but respectful behavior is still expected.


  • Turn off your cell phone
  • Exercise self control, no matter what is said in the court room
  • Be respectful to the other side whenever you meet them.
  • Speak clearly and loudly enough to be heard by the judge and the opposing side.
  • Ask the questioner to repeat or clarify any questions that you do not understand.
  • Direct your answers to the person who asked the question. Make eye contact with them.
  • Answer questions even if they seem stupid or foolish to you.


  • Chew gum.
  • Argue with the opposing party or his/her attorney.
  • Interrupt anyone.
  • React to the witnesses’ answers or to the questions from the opposing attorney to indicate your displeasure.
  • If you are questioned by the other side, don’t argue with the questioner.
  • Ask questions when it is your turn: “What would you do if…”
  • Give flippant answers.

While you are waiting in the back of the Court Room

  • Do appear to be paying attention. It is helpful to actually listen and learn about the process (and the judge) before your case.
  • Do try to appear pleasant and interested in the proceedings.
  • Do be polite to courtroom staff - the clerk, the bailiff or others. They work with the judge and will report poor behavior.
  • Don't read the newspaper, listen to your iPod, work on your laptop, chew gum, use your cell phone or talk to other people while waiting in the back of the courtroom.
  • Don't make faces or roll your eyes or otherwise show negative reactions to something happening in the court.
  • Don't ignore or treat non-judge members of the court staff poorly. They are part of the justice system that will decide your case.
  • Don't act angry or short-tempered with the judge or other side, even if you are upset by your case.

When Speaking to the Judge

  • Do refer to him/her as "Your Honor" and speak with respect.
  • Don't act angry or short-tempered with the judge, even if you are upset about your case.

How to Dress for Court

Formal dress is not required in the courtroom but it is encouraged that you dress neat and professional.

If you had to come to court directly from work, it would be worth mentioning that. The judge will understand.

Don’t wear t-shirts with messages.

A special project of the Eastern Shore Regional Library under a Library Services Technology Act grant from the Division of Library Development Services/MD State Department of Education (author: Ayn H. Crawley)
Is this legal advice?

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