Often, divorce and other civil cases that are filed do not make it all the way to trial and the courtroom. In many, in fact a majority of, cases settle before the final hearing. This may be accomplished by mediation, settlement agreements, or reconciliation-to name a few.
However, when a case does go to trial, there are several variables, including whether your case will be heard by a jury (not domestic cases) or by a judge, whether the trial will last one day or several days, how many witnesses will be called and so on. A great number of variables that play into a decision are able to be determined in advance.
The one constant variable is the issue of the first impression. As a litigant, you are in the spotlight, and your actions, along with the facts of your case, may factor into the ultimate outcome. For instance, if a litigant acts inappropriately, dressed sloppily and rolling his/her eyes, and/or talking during the other side’s witnesses, these actions are viewed by the Judge and may be taken into account. Also, while writing notes to one’s attorney is often helpful to share information, writing furiously and having frantic body movement can be distracting. Be aware of your presence, and work to limit distractions.
Another big irritant for judges, attorneys, and staff is when clients are late. Everyone has busy schedules and often a case has been carefully coordinated to accommodate the schedules of all involved. When one litigant is late, it can postpone the schedule of the entire Court and it can cost the other side attorneys fees. Be respectful of everyone’s time, and plan to leave early to avoid those situations you cannot account for such as traffic due to a wreck or bad weather.
More recently, in the last decade or so, cell phones and other wireless devices have become another major irritant in trial proceedings. At the beginning of the trial, the Court will often remind litigants (and attorneys and bystanders) to turn off their phones. Often, it is best to turn the phone completely off during that time.
For one, it is distracting and disrespectful to answer a call or text during a trial, so there is no need for it to be on. Secondly, even if the ringer is off or on vibrate, the sound of vibration can be loud and picked up on the microphones for the Court reporter or the constant lighting up of the phone screen can be distracting.
Some courts will confiscate a ringing or vibrating phone and confiscate it. Given multiple violations, it may be contempt of court because it is directly interfering with those proceedings.
To reiterate, from the parking lot upon arrival until the parking lot as you leave, you are in the spotlight. Be aware of your conversations and the appropriateness of same, and be respectful and courteous of the Judges, staff, and others. It may affect your case, positively or negatively.
A few other things. Expect the unexpected. You will likely go through a metal detector. Remove pocket knives, mace, and the like and leave them at home. Bring an umbrella and money for parking. Confirm in advance where you will meet your attorney and when. All of these will eliminate your stress, that of your attorney, and help you get off to a good start on your day of trial.
We hope that this blog post has been helpful in understanding some potential pitfalls of actions in the Courtroom. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.