Do Not Behave Aggressively Towards Judges
Video Transcribed: My name is Brian L. Jackson. I’m a Tulsa lawyer working with the Wirth Law Office. I want to talk about five things you should never do in court. I’m going to start this off, again, with a really obvious one, and that is dressing inappropriately. And what does that mean? Well, I can give you some fine examples of things that I would say we’re extremely inappropriate, either because the person was underdressed, or worse yet, are they wore something that is just really not a good thing to be seen in, in a courtroom.
I’ve got two examples. I’ve seen numerous cases of people where they show up on the protective order docket wearing a wife-beater undershirt. Not a good idea. One, you’re way underdressed, and two, it fits the stereotype. I hate to say that. It is a fact, it fits the stereotype. And as unfair as it may be, the fact of the matter is that you will be judged on your appearance when you set foot in a court in front of a judge who doesn’t know you.
The other example I can think of is I once saw someone walk into criminal court wearing a t-shirt that, I’m not joking, this actually, this really did happen, wearing a t-shirt that said F the police, and it was a criminal docket. And this was so inappropriate that the judge actually made this individual step outside, turn his shirt inside out before he could come back into court. So that’s the first thing. And you can bet in both of those cases that the judge will remember this person, and not in a good way. So that’s the first thing.
Another thing you should never do in court, never let your cell phone ring in court, ever. It’s a big deal. I mean, judges get really annoyed with this. They get annoyed with lawyers who let their cell phones ring in court. They will get even more annoyed with you if you’re not a lawyer.
A general good rule with a cell phone, if you can turn it off, turn it off. If you really can’t turn it off, then have it on silent, and silently doesn’t mean vibrate, where you can hear it vibrate halfway across the room, either. I’ve seen judges call people out for that and find them. So I’m telling you, don’t let your cell phone go off. The judge will not think your clever ringtone is funny.
I know a particular judge in Delaware County for a very long time. If your phone went off in court, he’d make you take it to the bench and pay him 50 bucks to get it back or pay the court 50 bucks. I shouldn’t say pay him personally. Pay the court 50 bucks to get your phone back. So I’m not kidding. Do not let your phone go off in court. It’s not a good idea.
Another one that you should never do in court, if you have a hat, take it off. Take it off. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people come into my municipal court thinking they can get away with a ball cap, because oh, it’s municipal court. No. Take that hat off. It’s disrespectful, and that’s how it’s taken and it’s how you will be seen. And again, that’s going to put you on the judge’s radar in a not-good way.
Another thing you should never do in court, and this one, I mean, I couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t have believed that it happened if I hadn’t seen it with my own two eyes. If you’re there on a domestic case and the other side’s there and you all don’t get along very well, here’s a suggestion.
Don’t get into a conflict in the hallway. This actually happened to me with a client of mine once. I’m not even kidding. And it was an ugly, nasty confrontation, to the point where the judge actually had to step out of his chambers to tell people to knock it off and break up the fight. And he was pissed, not unreasonably so. And it did not bode well for anyone involved. I mean, he went so far as to threaten contempt if anything further happened.
So I’m just telling you guys, I understand that these are very deeply personal issues and that you may find yourself in a situation one day where someone from the other side, from her family, tries to confront you about something they think you did wrong. The best thing that you can do in that situation does not to get into it with them. It’s not worth it. I mean, the judges can see what goes on in the corridor. They have security cameras that will broadcast back into chambers. They know if you’re acting like a fool. So don’t.
Another thing you should never do, going along these same lines, is don’t talk crap about judges while you’re walking down the hallway, or while you’re sitting in the courtroom. It’s not private. I don’t care what you think about whatever it is that they decided from the bench or however you’ve been treated there, the courthouse is not the place to air your views. That’s a really bad idea, and it will bite you in the backside.
Lastly, the last thing I’d say you should never, ever do in court never makes an aggressive move towards the bench. And this is a serious safety concern for you. I’ve seen a couple of times where somebody got angry with a judge and made a move like they were going to rush towards the bench.
Without exception, what will happen in that situation is that whatever sheriff’s deputy or courthouse security is present in the room is going to take you to the floor. They’re going to slap cuffs on you, and you’re going to go to county jail. And you’re probably going to pick up a felony charge.
Do not behave aggressively, physically aggressively, towards judges. I mean, it’ll get you a criminal charge, but that’s not necessarily the worst thing that can happen. You can get yourself hurt because they do not fool around with that kind of thing.
So very seriously, do not ever make an aggressive move like that. I don’t care what they did. I don’t care what they said. Number one, that behavior will never resolve whatever you’re upset about. It’ll make it worse. You can get criminal charges and you can get yourself hurt. So in all seriousness, I mean, some of this has been a bit light-hearted, but in all seriousness, that’s one that’s a major safety rule. Do not act aggressively with a judge because it will end badly for you.