Swindle: Four ways to prepare for court

Published 4:38 pm Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Jason Swindle
Senior Partner Swindle Law Group P.C

Much of this column is just common sense. But, I have seen too many disasters over the years not to address the four most important things about preparing for court.

Appearance – I don’t necessarily enjoy wearing a suit. Most of the time when I meet clients at the office, I dress casually. I developed this habit from my mentor; Gerry Word. He was correct when he told me that it made clients more comfortable.

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However, when appearing in court, the rules are very different. A courtroom is a place where serious business takes place. I strongly suggest to all of my clients, witnesses, and family that you cannot go wrong in the west Georgia area by dressing as if they were on their way to a job interview. This could be a suit, golf shirt and slacks, or a button down collared shirt. I suggest to my female clients to simply wear a conservative outfit. For folks who would feel unnatural dressing up, their discomfort can be seen in their body language. Here, it is always best to wear something that makes them feel comfortable. 

Mental Preparation – Some court appearances can impact lives forever. Before going to court, touch base with your lawyer regarding what to expect. You may need to look at your prior testimony, statements (if you are a witness), or be prepared to address the judge in some cases. If someone ever tells you that they are not nervous when they are about to be sworn in as a witness, they are being less than truthful.

Body Language – Oftentimes, a person communicates more through their body than with their speech. This subject is too lengthy to address in this column.

However, there are three main suggestions, that is followed, will better prepare a person for court.

First, portray confidence (not arrogance) even if you are afraid. This will send the message that you know everything will be just fine. Second, if you are testifying, look the questioner in the eyes. Shifting eye movements and looking around can suggest extreme nervousness, untruthfulness, and/or weakness in general. Third, always portray calmness. This is easier said than done. It can be extremely difficult to control anger when someone questions your integrity or truthfulness. However, when a witness remains calm under these circumstances, he or she has already won.

Being on time – This would seem to be obvious the most obvious of the four.

But, I have seen hundreds of people show up late for court. This shows disrespect for the judge, puts your lawyer in a difficult situation, and can result in the issuance of a bench warrant for your arrest.

Oftentimes, proper documentation will clear up issues of being late or failing to show up for court before they become real problems.

If a person utilizes just some of these four suggestions, I can assure you that there will be a positive effect on the case that they are interested in.