Local Voice: Courthouse etiquette

Marie E. Matyjaszek
Law Office of Robert Matyjaszek

Almost every day that I go to the courthouse I cringe at what I see and hear, and it appears that this gets worse in the summer time (the heat makes everyone crazy). I’m all for having a good time no matter where I go, but there are some etiquette ground rules that should be followed when you’re going to the courthouse to conduct legal business.

The number one offense is by far wearing pajamas to court (this can also be expanded to other inappropriate clothing — booty shorts are not the best idea, either). Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice pair of comfy pants, but anything I wear in public is not going to have monkeys or Hello Kitty© all over it. The other week I actually saw someone leaving the courthouse wearing what was definitely pjs, a bathrobe and slippers. Presumably you’re not at the courthouse because you feel like hanging out there and instead you are probably paying a fine, attending a hearing or trying to obtain records of some sort. Who is going to take you seriously when you are dressed like you just rolled out of bed? You don’t have to get all glammed up, but you should have enough respect for yourself to put on your big boy pants and dress in something other than pajamas when you go to the courthouse.

Bringing children into the courtroom isn’t a fab idea, either. I realize that sometimes it’s difficult to obtain daycare and you may not have any control over when your hearing is scheduled. However, children are unpredictable and the younger they are, the more this is true. It can be distracting and disruptive to bring the kiddos to the courtroom and it doesn’t make for a happy audience. If the kids are older, and they understand what the court hearing is about, think about the emotional toll it takes on them to see their dad/mom/relative/family friend sentenced or yelled at by the judge. Not a good idea all around.

Cell phones are not to be audible in court, and trust me when they do ring, everyone looks around for the guilty party. It’s simple to turn it on vibrate or leave it in the car, so make sure you do. Check with the specific courthouse for its rules also — some do not allow cell phones with cameras in the building unless you’re an attorney. If you can silence your phone for a movie, you can certainly do it for a judge.

Throwing a fit on the sidewalk outside the courthouse is always entertaining but not necessarily in a good way. It’s like watching a train wreck — you can’t look away. Yes, we all have personal problems in our lives and it seems some more than others. This doesn’t mean the general public wants to know why all of those people that testified against so and so are complete liars and why the judge was too hard on your friend for his no longer alleged crime. Frankly, it all looks ridiculous and not very civilized — wait until you get to your car or house to let it all out.

Following these simple suggestions won’t pay your fine or win your motion, but they will help you gain more respect with the judge, lawyers and other courthouse officials. Besides, isn’t a little respect what you wanted in the first place?


Marie E. Matyjaszek is an associate attorney at the Law Office of Robert Matyjaszek, PLLC, Jackson, Michigan. Her blog site is: http://legalbling.blogspot.com. She can be reached at (517) 787-0351 or by emailing her at matyjasz@hotmail.com.