Courtroom Behavior

An important aspect of trial procedure, often overlooked in teaching about mock trials, is the courtroom decorum of the team. The following hints are intended to help mock trial participants understand some of the nuances of proper courtroom behavior:

It is extremely important to be polite and show courtesy towards the judge. The role of the judge in mock trials is to preside (make rulings on the procedures and objections) and to evaluate the performance of each participant. Students should remember that this role is the most important one in the courtroom, and act accordingly. Refer to the judge as "Your Honor." Accept any decision of the judge gracefully and politely, even if it is not in your favor.

Courtroom etiquette also requires that you act courteously toward the opposing team before, during, and after the trial. Be sure to shake hands and congratulate the other team on their performance. Any name-calling, derogatory comments, or threatened or actual physical will not be tolerated and is grounds for immediate dismissal of the team from the current competition and future competitions.

Be prepared to deal with the unpredictable, should something arise for which you are totally unprepared. If you are concerned that the rules may be violated, ask for a bench conference and be prepared to explain your concern. Always maintain your composure, even if you feel that the trial is not going as you planned or is not going like another trial you just recently participated in.  Each judge may rule differently on similar objections, request for admission of exhibits, etc. so you should be prepared for the unexpected.  Your ability to “move on” from a particular ruling is part of the trial process.

Emotions are not banned from the courtroom; however, they must be controlled emotions. It is okay (and may indeed even be part of your strategy) to be appropriately angry, indignant, puzzled, etc., but uncontrolled outbursts or wild theatrics are frowned upon by judges and may harm your case.

Be sure to dress appropriately and remember to avoid wearing a hat or eating (including gum chewing) while in the courtroom.