How should I act in Court?

Well, don’t do this.  This is the wrong way to behave in Court, but it makes for a good story.

A very long time ago I had a client who appeared before a commissioner in King County Superior Court on the Family Law Motions Calendar in Seattle, WA.  The commissioner was well known as a hard ass.  He still is but I’m convinced he likes me on Fridays.  Nevertheless, as we appeared before this commissioner, we first sat through the opposing attorney giving their version of the events during their 5 minutes window.  During the opposing attorney’s argument, I could hear and see my client squirming and hissing as the opposing attorney said a lot of bad things about him calling him a domestic violence perpetrator among other nasty comments.   After the opposing attorney completed their story, I had a chance to respond. I spent our time pointing out what a loser and piece of work my client’s wife was and why her drug issues should prevent her from having primary custody.  I redirected the Commissioner to the real version of events and urged him to not get side tracked on the domestic violence card, which is routinely played by many attorneys in King County.  After I finished, I sensed that we had corrected course by client had not.  While the other side presented their “strict reply”, my client had a near melt down.

As my client sighed and heaved and moaned, I watched this commissioner’s well known anger boil up as well.  After we were finished, the court started to give the ruling and at this point, it still seemed we could come out ahead.  But that’s when my client gave his final outburst informing the court that it wasn’t true.  It doesn’t matter what “it” was, the it was his anger.  What did this little outburst do for him?  It lost his case.  It gave him a brand new DVPO, something I try to get my clients to avoid like the plague.  But, no matter what arguments I present there is just no substitute for someone displaying their out of control anger while appearing before the very commissioner that you are trying to convince that you don’t have an anger problem.

So how should I act?  What if the Judge is getting it wrong?

You should stand there and stare blankly.  Do not smile.  Do not frown.  Do not do anything other than be rigid.  Do not go get your hair shaved off and come into court with a bald head when the other side is asking for a drug evaluation.  Take a shower and brush your teeth.  Wear a suit if at all possible.  If you are a lady, wear a dress.  Be provocative but in a conservative way.  I tell my clients to dress like they are in court as attorneys and then don’t do anything stupid.  99% of clients figure that out.

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