Just as important as your attire, if not more so, is how you act in the courtroom or anywhere else in the courthouse. The basic idea is to show respect for the court. Do not chew gum. Do not suck on candy, unless you have a cold and need a cough drop. Even when the court is not in session at a particular moment, do not text, email, or play games on your phone, tablet, or other electronic device. Better yet, turn off your cell phone before entering the courtroom.
Do not talk while someone else is talking. Instead, listen. If you need to get the attention of your lawyer or someone else, write a note on paper or raise your hand. Nothing irritates a judge more than a litigant or anyone else trying to interrupt or talk over another person—whether it be the judge, one of the lawyers, the other party, a witness, or anyone else—during a court proceeding.
When you are testifying, look directly at the person asking you the questions, whether he or she is the judge or one of the attorneys. If you feel uncomfortable having the opposing party in the same room, do not look at him or her. Look at your own attorney or something else in the room. Or close your eyes and think of a “happy place.”
If you address the judge directly, be sure refer to him or her as Your Honor. Never say Judge, Sir, Ma’am, Mr. Smith, or Ms. Jones. The judge expects and deserves respect in his or her courtroom.
If you think there is even the slightest chance you may be moved to tears at the hearing, be sure to bring facial tissue along. The court usually, but not always, supplies a box. By the way, crying is fine, as long as it is sincere. On the other hand, smiling or laughing at a somber or quiet moment generally is frowned on. As in a church, synagogue, temple, or other place of worship, a courtroom is a place to act reverently.
You may bring relatives, friends, or both for moral support. They will need to sit in the gallery behind the pony wall at the back of the courtroom. They also will need to be quiet and refrain completely from using electronic devices. You want them to be an extension of you. And you want to represent to the court how respectful you can be and how much you appreciate the gravity, or importance, of the occasion.
If you have any questions on how to look or act, ask your attorney. But remember to do so before the hearing.