Lindsay Lohan is the ambassador for the attention seeking, the self-destructive, and the spoiled. As such, she has seen her career slip away like the sands of time and has become the butt of nearly every joke out of the late night comedians’ mouth. She is what causes seemingly rational, well-to-do fathers to vehemently declare that they are locking up their daughters until they turn 30.
The stunt Ms. Lohan pulled during a probation violation hearing this past summer did nothing to halt her rapid decline into anonymity. Li-Lo, as tabloids I refuse to purchase call her, had a certain four-letter expletive written on her well manicured nails that she continually flashed in the presiding Judge’s direction. Additionally, she repeatedly burst into tears and covered her face with her notes during the hearing. The result of the hearing: Ms. Lohan was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
Certainly there is nothing worthwhile we can gleam from Ms. Lohan’s outrageous display of disrespect, right? Wrong. Ms. Lohan’s behavior can serve as a forceful reminder that how you act in Court may influence the outcome of the proceeding for better or worse. Indeed, there are many far less shocking things than flipping off the Judge that will land you in hot water, or at least, leave you looking very foolish. Below I have complied some of my favorite no-no’s and helpful suggestions either elicited from personal observation or from the helpful advice of those with years of professional experience under their belt.
- Never say, “With all due respect, Your Honor.” Translation: “You’re an idiot, Judge.”
- Never wear slippers, flip-flops, or five-inch strappy heels. You do not want the Judge asking you if you are heading to a club or a beach after your appearance in Court. Always dress professionally.
- Do not interrupt the Judge, especially more than once.
- Unless instructed otherwise by your attorney, do not volunteer information to a question you weren’t asked. During cross-examination, the vast majority of your answers will be “yes,” “no,” or “I don’t know.”
- Do not quote any line from A Few Good Men, My Cousin Vinny or And Justice for All. I assure you, the Judge can handle the truth.
- Do not forget your glasses. You will be asked to read materials or identify documents on the stand. You don’t want to look like you are being evasive.
- Never chew gum. Your mom was right. You do look like a cow when you are chewing gum.
- Turn off your cell phone and do not touch it again until you are clear of the Courtroom. Courts will not hesitate to hold you in contempt for texting or talking on your phone.
- Do not make any gestures. This includes shaking your head, rolling your eyes, laughing or tossing your hands up in the air. I once saw a Judge come down off the bench to accuse an onlooker of tipping off the witness for merely nodding his head. The onlooker just happened to be the Plaintiff’s expert witness who was testifying the next day.
- Avoid using slang. In other words, your response to “what is your relationship with the Plaintiff” should not be “yeah, we kicked it.”
For more information about courtroom etiquette or other litigation issues, please contact our litigation deparment Chair, Steven Hoffman, at firstname.lastname@example.org.