There is an old adage that states “you only get one chance to make a first impression.” Any judge or attorney will tell you the first impression a trial court judges gets of you is important. This is not to say a miscue will cause you to lose. On the other hand, if such is furthered by additional behaviors, it may speak to your credibility, which trial court judges are charged to weigh in deciding the case under the law and burdens of proof.
However, all of us have unintended behaviors, mostly non-verbal, we are unaware of at least at any specific time. You should take great care to avoid such; judges are keenly aware of these, and every attorney has had his or her client admonished by a judge not to do such:
- Making inappropriate facial expressions. These may range from un-intended “winces” to intentional acts, such as making a face. If you are prone to this at least make your facial expressions neutral.
- Mouthing. As childish as it may sound, litigants sometimes lose sight of the fact they are in a court of law and mouth a derogatory word to an opposing litigant. This often happens during face-to-face contact during testimony.
- Sighing. Sighing (audible) with a corresponding hand gesture, such as waiving off the statement is also a common behavior in life, but has no place in the court room. Don’t do it.
- Blurting out. Although less common, sometimes a litigant will blurt out an explicative or the term “liar” in response to testimony. This is perhaps the best way to do irreparable harm to your case.
- Writing furiously. Some litigants write furiously in response to adverse testimony, which is distracting to the counsels and the judge. If you need to communicate with your attorney, do so in a way that is not disruptive and is legible.
In some cases, this can be some chronic or dramatic that interferes with the court’s operations. This may subject you to direct contempt of court and fine or incarceration.1 You paid and waited for your day in court. Make a good impression.
This blog post is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. and is for general educational purposes only. It is not legal advice, or solicitation for legal services. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys handle civil and criminal appeals from all Indiana state trial courts, Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, or United States Supreme Court.