SWINDLE COLUMN: How to prepare for court

Published 10:30 am Thursday, September 16, 2021

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By Jason Swindle

Senior partner, Swindle Law Group

Over the years, I have learned that some of the “little things” can make a bigger impact on a case than you might expect. One of those “little things” is simply preparing yourself for a court appearance.

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Whether you are a client, witness, or have some other business before a court, there is a level of preparedness that a person needs to achieve.


Since most people who attend court are clients, this is probably the most important and easiest aspect of court preparedness. Clients usually rely on their attorneys to speak on their behalf. Most of the time, they are only seen in court.

However, the fact that a person is being seen in court is important too. To illustrate by example, I once had a marijuana case in Heard County Superior Court before Judge Keeble. I worked out a deal with the prosecutor whereby my client would not have a drug conviction. As the 9:00 hour settled in, my client strolled into court with a pair of torn blue jeans and a tee shirt. My eyes popped out as I noticed that my client also had a very large picture of a marijuana “blunt” right in the middle of the front of his tee shirt. I was grateful that I was able to catch him in the back of the courtroom and suggest some clothing alternatives. He returned 15 minutes later and was appropriately dressed.

That is an extreme example. However, you would be surprised by what some people choose to wear to court. All clients and witnesses should dress as if they were on their way to Sunday school. This could be a suit, golf shirt and slacks, or a button-down collared shirt. I suggest that my female clients simply wear a conservative outfit such as a dress. For those folks who live a “dressed down” lifestyle, that is completely fine. They just need one outfit that is appropriate for court.


The most important aspect of being mentally prepared is controlling anxiety. It is natural to be nervous in court; especially if the person is testifying. Talented attorneys can be brutal during cross-examination. The goal is to turn the witness’s anxiety into anger. When the jury or the judge see a witness get angry while the lawyer is calm, the lawyer has won.


This would seem to be obvious. But, I have seen hundreds of people show up late for court. This shows disrespect for the judge, puts the lawyer in a difficult situation, and can result in the issuance of a bench warrant. If a true emergency comes up, like an emergency room visit, then the client needs to get the appropriate paperwork to the lawyer as soon as possible. Oftentimes, proper documentation will clear up issues of being late or failing to show up for court.