Hit the link above with your mouse and you will get tips for the courtroom that everyone should know and follow.
I've appeared in hundreds of criminal and civil courtrooms in Southern and Central California the past 29 years. The stuff that is memorable? People cursing the judges. It happens once in a while. One female judge responded to an F*** Y** with "No thanks. I've had better offers."
Wrestling matches and unarmed escape attempts are always fun. The best courtroom running play was by a guy in Fullerton dressed in street clothes. He was unexpectedly ordered into custody by the judge for a failure to appear on an old traffic ticket.
Instead of the typical 180 degree spinning turn and beeline for the hallway exit, he called an audible worthy of Jim Marshall or Roy Riegels. He faked he was going off tackle to the strong side and did an end run to the left around the prosecution table and past the empty jury box toward the jury room door.
Then he brilliantly stopped short to keep from crashing through the closed door. He cut right and ran behind the empty witness box and up the step until he was in back of the startled white-haired, black-robed judge. He dropped his head and charged past the judge, went down the step on the clerk's desk side, and dashed out the door to the hallway leading to all the jury rooms and judges' chambers on the second floor.
If only he had headed to the fire door at the far end of the hallway, he would have escaped into the spring air. But he reversed field and came back in the same judge's doorway and was finally brought down for a safety by the bailiff about five yards behind the original line of scrimmage.
After a night in custody, the judge brought him back in bright orange jail clothes
and released him without even finding him in contempt of court. I'd like to tell you the kid went on to play in the Rose Bowl, but this wasn't Forest Gump.
In 1982, I saw a judge displaying a hangman's noose from the ceiling in his Orange County chambers. He had a map of Alabama on the wall. Another judge had a machine gun mounted on a wall plaque. (I hope it had the firing pin removed.)
Back then there were some clients with 10 previous DUI convictions in the preceding five years. That is almost unbelievable today.
My biggest tip for first time court visitors? Dress up. How up? Suits and ties on men. Dresses on ladies.
Casual dress in the courtroom is an accidental sign of "disrespect" that makes an instant bad impression on judges and prosecutors. You may see some fools in jeans who will get
looked down on and made to wait all morning.
Dress like you are going to the White House for a job interview: a suit and tie for men or a top-of-the-knee-length dress for women will never hurt. I recently represented
a gentleman who was NOT identified from the witness stand by the arresting officer in a
DUI trial. He had on his best suit and tie. I think the cop assumed the defendant was not present in court and had hired TWO lawyers. It made a big impact to the jury.
You may feel "phony" and "overdressed," but better that than for you to find yourself looking like you don't know how serious judges and prosecutors are about their jobs. I defended a 12 year old young man in April 2010 in Juvenile Court whose suit and tie so impressed the judge and prosecutor that his felony charges were continued without an admission of guilt and then dismissed after six months of informal supervision. (Yes, I had both parents in suits, too)
A necktie is the most cost effective stay-out-of-jail card in the deck. The price at the 99 Cent Store is 99 cents. Wearing a suit and tie often turns a county jail case into a house arrest case. A woman charged with felony commercial burglary in a video-recorded escapade around three stores ended up in a weekend work program because she always wore a smart pants suit and no gold jewelry to court.
Dressing like a Mormon missionary and a good lawyer are your best defenses.