Everyone makes mistakes, but some are more significant than others, and others are certain to irritate the judge who will be deciding your client’s fate. Here are five things to avoid at a hearing, whether in person or by video (as most courts will do during the COVID-19 crisis):
Getting in the Judge’s Way. Waiting one’s turn is an important social concept that most kindergarteners learn. That centuries-old rule still binds humans. Your client’s fate is decided by the person in the black robe. It should go without saying that you must respect the judge. Before replying to a judge’s queries, lawyers should think about them thoroughly. When a judge is interrupted, his or her attention is quickly drawn away from the merits of the argument.
Counseling at a Crossroads. Opposing counsel may be impolite, inaccurate, provide false facts or legislation, or even insult you. Regardless, interrupting your opponent’s counsel will not be tolerated by a judge. Keep in mind the first rule: Wait. Notify the court at the conclusion of opposing counsel’s case that counsel’s comments were incorrect, and if you don’t have the right to reply, ask for a chance to clear the record after the hearing, either orally or in writing. This isn’t a flaw in any way. It’s an opportunity to show the judge that you understand the process, even if opposing counsel doesn’t, while simultaneously correcting counsel and the record and convincing the court that your position is correct.
Not being able to see or hear. Judges, like everyone else, communicate their feelings through body language, tone, and facial expressions. A judge’s body language during a hearing can disclose a lot about her emotions and intentions. For example, a judge scanning her desk or computer for anything during your argument may have missed something crucial to your case. This should motivate you to give the judge a general summary of your case before diving into supporting evidence. The facts and procedural history of your case may be forgotten by a busy trial judge. Before beginning, a wise lawyer can read the judge’s body language and determine that a brief background on the case’s facts and procedural history is required. The judge’s body language, comments, or questions, on the other hand, may convey to the attorney that the judge is familiar with the case and that a lengthy background summary is unnecessary.
Counsel, not the Court. The purpose of a hearing in a hearing room is to listen to arguments, ask questions, and make a decision. So, instead of addressing your arguments to counsel, address them to the court. Do not address counsel in court. Address the court, no matter how personal, rude, or incorrect your opponent is. You risk losing the court’s respect and attention to your argument if you address counsel during a hearing.