When you appear in a courthouse as a self-represented litigant,
think of yourself as a substitute attorney, acting on behalf of a client in absentia. You must conduct yourself
in a professional manner, dressing and behaving as any other professional might. Since you will leave an
impression – for better or worse – on the judge, jury, court officers and personnel who are directly impacting
your chances of success, make it a policy not to go to court underdressed or under-prepared.
A business suit is proper attire for any appearance in court
including non-trial appearances for depositions, court filings and motions.
If possible, visit the court prior to your trial to acquaint
yourself with the customs and procedures occurring before and during trial. As Schachner observes, “The human
dramas played out daily are usually interesting and, by observing such things as [the court’s] procedures,
formalities and general decorum, you can become more comfortable in the court setting.”
Like it or not, judges make assumptions about litigant based on
first impressions. Many times in my thirty years on the bench, pro se litigants (and even a few lawyers) have
come into court less than properly attired and almost without exception, I have found them unprepared,
disorganized, often disrespectful and usually, their cases became more or less a waste of time. Judges don’t
appreciate having their time wasted because it prevents the court from considering another case where the
parties are respectful and prepared. You have to remember that there is a never ending line of folks who want
their “day in court”. Come to court
professional and prepared and you and your claim will be taken seriously.