Modern Family Matters

The Do's and Don'ts of Courtroom Conduct: What to Know Before Your Hearing

October 29, 2020 with Senior Judge, Deanne Darling Season 1 Episode 16
Modern Family Matters
The Do's and Don'ts of Courtroom Conduct: What to Know Before Your Hearing
Show Notes Transcript

Senior Judge, Deanne Darling, discusses courtroom etiquette that everybody is expected to adhere to during their family law hearing.


You should be aware of your court etiquette from the moment you leave your house, to the moment you return. This includes your behavior in the parking lot, in the lobby, how you treat the courtroom staff, within the courtroom, and so on.


The most important thing to remember when deciding how to dress is that the Judge will be looking for clean, respectable, and an honest representation of who you are. You do not need to purchase outfits that you will never wear again, but treat your hearing like a job interview—practice good hygiene, dress in a respectable manner, and avoid anything that might serve as a distraction, such as heavy jewelry, nail colors, audible shoes such as flip-flops, unprofessional t-shirts, heavily exposed tattoos, chewing gum, etc. Avoid wearing any sort of hat if possible, but if you must for health, religious or cultural purposes, avoid hats with bills that could cover your face.


When addressing the Judge, refer to them as Your Honor. Never approach the well without permission, and try to avoid distracting behaviors, such as being overly fidgety, clicking a pen, etc. It’s okay to express emotions appropriately, but try your best to maintain control—it’s okay to ask for a short break if you need a moment to compose yourself.


When inviting guests to attend a hearing, consider the message they might convey to the judge, and how it will better your case. Inviting support is okay, but they should understand the rules and expectations of the court, and not serve as a distraction. As a general rule of thumb, children should not be brought to court hearings. 


If a restroom break is needed, or you need to consult with your attorney or support network, it is okay to ask the Judge for a short recess.


If you would like to speak with one of our family law attorneys regarding your unique family law matter, please call our office at (503) 227-0200 or visit our website at to schedule a free consultation.


Welcome to Modern Family Matters, a podcast hosted by Steve Altishin, our Director of Client Partnerships here at Landerholm Family Law. We are devoted to exploring topics within the realm of family law that matter most to you. Our discussions will cover a wide range of both legal and personal issues that accompany family law matters. We strongly believe that life events such as marriages, divorces, re-marriages, births, adoptions, children, growing up, growing older, illnesses and deaths do not dissolve a family. Rather, they provide the opportunity to reconfigure and strengthened family dynamics in healthy and positive ways. With expertise from qualified attorneys and professional guests, we hope that our podcasts will help provide answers, clarity, and guidance for the better tomorrow for you and your family. Without further ado, your host, Steve Altishin.


Steve Altishin  1:12  

Hello everyone! Welcome to our Facebook Live broadcast. I'm Steve Altishin, Director of Client Partnerships here at Landerholm Family Law. Today we're going to talk about how to dress and behave in a courtroom. We're going to go through what to wear and not wear in the courtroom, acting appropriately in the courtroom and addressing the judge with respect, and being aware of the court rules and informing your guests. And to make sense of it all, we have Senior Judge, Deanne Darling, with us today. Welcome, Deanne.


Deanne Darling  1:42  

Good morning, Steve. Thanks for having me on.


Steve Altishin  1:46  

Well, this is going to be great. I'm really happy you came. So Judge Darling, before we get into specifics, let's start on why we want to look our best, why we want to speak our best, be on our best behavior? It's not just a fashion show. It's not just to make us look good. There's real serious reasons to do it, aren't there?


Deanne Darling  2:07  

Well, I think so. But I want to frame the question a little bit differently, though. It's not just the courtroom. This is bigger than just the courtroom. We can talk about specifics within the courtroom, but anybody that's got dealings with the court should think about it from the minute they leave home, until the minute that they get back in their car to go home. Because somebody is watching. I'll start out with a fun story. Maybe the person that I'm talking about won't think it's fun, and I almost didn't think it was fun. But I was going to work one day, walking across the street to go in to conduct somebody's hearing, and a car comes screaming down the road paying no attention, driving way too fast. I'm in the crosswalk. And thankfully, they slammed on their brakes, just maybe a foot from me. And I looked up and I glared at the driver. The driver acted like they didn't care at all. Car goes away, I go to work. I walk into the courtroom, and who should one of the litigants be but the guy that almost ran me down in the car. Now if I told him how to dress and behave in the courtroom, he might listen to that. But I want you to know that you've got to behave long before the courtroom. My staff is watching you. They're listening to how you're interacting with other people, they can hear you. They tell me how you treat them. There's deputies in and around the courtroom. There's security people up front. And if you're kind of a jerk to everybody, the word will travel through the courthouse quickly. So you want to be very careful about all of that. Why is it important? Well, I'm assuming, let's just assume first, it's your case, it's really important to you. I'm primarily from the family law and child welfare background, and juvenile background. But I've done civil cases and criminal cases as well. But these are important things in your life, really important. And you want us to treat them important. And if you don't treat them important, why should we? We listen and watch how you behave. And if you're treating your case insignificant and disrespectfully, why would I pour my heart and soul into your case if you don't care about it? Now, if you're behaving respectfully, and it's important to you, I'm going to work all that much harder for you. And I would ask you to look at it this way: how do you want your judge to look? How do you want your judge to behave? You want your judge to look respectful, you want your judge to look serious, and you want your judge to take it serious. And we'd ask you to do the same thing. These are very important decisions. We are given a lot of power to make decisions that, when we're done with them, we walk away and take the next case. But you live with them. And so treat this as important as it is to you, and we will do our best.


Steve Altishin  4:55  

That makes so much sense and I'm really glad you talked about the global aspect of it not just being in the courtroom or being about the judge, because like you said, there are other parties, there are people who you want to take you seriously. So let's start in just on dress, and how to dress. You know, the old adage, you can't judge a book by its cover? Well, maybe some judges can. And so it seems to me that maybe it is important how you dress. What do you think?


Deanne Darling  5:36  

I think how you dress is really important. And I'll address it two different ways. First, judges are human polygraph machines. We are taught to decide who the liar is. And over time, all we do is decide who's telling the truth, in any case we have where there's no jury. The jury is doing it when they're there, but I'm talking about non-jury cases. Our primary job is to decide who we believe, what we believe, why we believe it, and to say it so that the appellate courts know, and they give us great deference on those findings. So we're careful about that. And over time, we get really good at knowing who the fibbers are. And it's a lot of different things, and everybody has a different way to go about it. But think about your own life. Every day you decide who you're going to believe and who you're going to trust. How do you do it? Well, everybody's a little bit different. But dress is important. And that's not that you have to go get fancy clothes that you normally don't wear. It's that you need to pretend you're at a job interview, and to dress as cleanly and respectfully as you can. Make sure your clothes fit you. I don't need clothes that show me every asset that nature's given you. I need clothes that are respectful. Ladies, beware your cleavage. Nobody likes to look at that. so please wear appropriate tops. Wear appropriate bottoms, they don't even have to match, they just have to be clean, and neat, and respectful. More and more trials involve photographs. And when I get a case where somebody looks like MaBelle, or Granny Clampett or Mrs. Cleaver-- those are people in my era, I'm trying to think of somebody more current-- but when they look like that in the courtroom, you know, people try to dumb down and look really bad and look really sad, or really poor. Well, that stuff doesn't work, because the next thing that happens is all the pictures come in with how you look every day. So you really want to look how you look every day. You will look phony if you don't come in looking how you do every day. Now if you're a slob every day, you probably want to clean up a little bit, but most people aren't slobs. Probably coming to court is not a good time to try a new hairdo or a new hair color. If you're a guy that wears a day or two worth of whiskers, and that's your normal look, do it. But don't grow the new beard. Don't shave off half your head because you're coming to court. Be your normal self. Be clean, clean under your fingernails. please. Wear shoes that don't go 'flap flap flap'. I call them beach wobbers or thongs, I forget what my kids call them. Now they've got some new name, but don't be wearing those sandals that make a lot of noise. Tennis shoes are fine if they're clean. Jeans are fine if they're clean. If you've got a pair of slacks, guys, wear them. I really don't want to see your marijuana t-shirts, or your political t-shirts, or your pornographic t-shirts, or your t-shirts with swear words on them, or copulating frogs. I don't need to see those kinds of clothing in the courtroom, if you could avoid it. But you don't have to wear a suit. If you're used to wearing a suit and you have one you're comfortable in, wear it. If you're kind of a polo-shirt or a button down shirt kind of guy, wear that. If you're comfortable with a tie, put it on. Ladies, if you don't normally wear dresses--I gave those up years ago-- if you don't normally wear dresses, don't go get one. Pick out your nicest pants and top and wear them. I wouldn't try new nail colors. I don't like the flashy red hands or the screaming neon green, and yellow, and orange. Don't do that. But just be clean, neat and consistent with you. Don't try on new fashions for us.


Steve Altishin  9:27  

I like that. So it kind of makes sense, like what you talked about, in terms of knowing where you are. It's like, there are good clothes, perfectly good clothes, to wear at a discotech, and there are perfectly good clothes to wear in court. They may not be the same good clothes. It seems to me that that not being be too flashy and being authentic really hits home, and I like that.


Deanne Darling  10:05  

I think that authentic is the right word. I think authentic, clean, respectful. If I came out on the bench wearing a tank top, a belly piercing, and short shorts, you probably wouldn't appreciate that in me. People come with a certain expectation of how I'm going to look, and a certain expectation on how the lawyers are going to look. And it's basically authentic, clean and neat. Now, we do have rules for lawyers, they have to wear suits and ties, that's still there. Women no longer have to wear dresses, there was a period of time when they did. It used to be that we had rules that define traditional female clothing and traditional male clothing. That's far more blurred now for lawyers, but they are expected to dress very professionally. If a woman wants to show up wearing a tie and a man's suit, that's fine by me. I have yet to experience a man coming to court in a dress, but that could happen. That's fine, too. It's just got to be neat and clean. I want to talk about something else. It's hats. Hats are a big problem. Security people, and there's always security people in the courtroom, they don't like hats, particularly baseball style hats on people, because it covers your face. And if they had to identify you, or if they're reading your face to see if your behaviors or your emotions are running away with you, and they think they're going to have a disorderly problem, the deputies don't want hats on. Sometimes hats are part of a fashion statement. I think, so that I never have to say 'take your hat off'-- and if I'm going to say it to a man, I'm going to say it to a woman, or to a they, it doesn't matter who, I'm going to say it to people across the board-- help us by just not wearing your hats to the courtroom if you could. Now there are some people that I know for medical reasons have to have a cover on their head. Either they've had chemotherapy, or they've got partial hair loss, and they just feel self conscious about it. But you don't need to wear a hat with a bill. If you do have to wear something on your head, or if for religious or cultural reasons you have to wear something on your head, try to do it so that your face shows. We look at faces for lots of reasons. So try to dress so they are not covered up. Now of course this COVID thing is getting in the middle of it all because we've all got COVID masks on. And as long as we're talking about that, and what I do when I'm in court is, most litigants are sitting quite a ways away from me. I think they have the right to know what the judge that's deciding things about them looks like, so I always take my mask off so they can see me. And then I'll ask 'Do you want it back on or off?' And I give every litigant the choice, you can take your mask off or not. The other problem with masks is it really makes it hard to hear under the best of circumstances, and some of us judges have years of experience and that affects our hearing. So it's a problem with the masks. You could ask the clerk in the courtroom, your lawyer if you have one could ask. We expect people to come into the courtroom with their masks on and then the judge can deal with it, or you can ask. This is all in COVID times. Non-COVID times of course are different, but that is a new twist, for sure.


Steve Altishin  13:27  

That is a twist. I'm thinking also, what about jewelry? I swear I've seen people in the courtroom who are pleading poverty and have, you know, $15,000 worth of jewelry on each ear.


Deanne Darling  13:44  

Well, that can be a problem. Although I have to say, I think some of the costume jewelry looks so good, I don't know if it's real or not. So I think most people don't have a lot of expensive jewelry, but they probably have jewelry that looks expensive. And is that really the message you want to give? If you're a person who ordinarily wears a lot of jewelry, and that's your comfort level and that helps you be comfortable, then okay. But you're right, Steve, the message is, ;I don't have any money, please help me out, and I'm looking real glitzy.' So you have to make some choices about balancing that. I remember talking with my clients about whether or not they should take your piercings out. And I'm kind of torn on that. I don't happen to like these gauges, you know, these great big things that people put in their ears that drape them down low. There's just something about that that bothers me. Now I have to get past that. I know it. I know it's my problem and I get past it and don't judge people on it. But it is weird, and I find myself just staring at the ear and not really listening to what's happening, so they're distracting. If you normally have a piercing or two, I would say leave them in because if you leave holes in your ear, then I'm looking at that going, 'Why do they have those holes?' They don't grow together overnight. But if you normally wear 50, or 60 of them, maybe one or two gets you to the point. You just don't want to be distracting. You want me to focus on what you're saying, and you want me to focus on what your witnesses are saying, and focus only on what's being said. And tattoos is another one. There are some gorgeous tattoos out there, but I don't want to be looking at that beautiful artwork, that tattoo, instead of listening to you. So be careful about what distractions you want other people to have. And I'm addressing you as if you're the litigant, but these same things would apply to anybody you call as a witness. If you want us to listen-- I've often thought it'd probably be great if I was blind, because then none of this stuff could distract me. But we don't have any blind judges anymore, for a while I think we had one. So our eyes are there. And as you go about your world, what distracts you from paying attention when you need to? What is that? Sometimes it's people fidgeting. I had a guy on the court room one time, he had that restless leg thing. And the whole time he's sitting there, he's bouncing up and down, and up and down. And I had to work really hard to learn to ignore that so I could hear what he had to say. Some of those things are just nerves, and we know it. Some of those things, if you just gather yourself and breathe deep, you can probably overcome it. And maybe you can have a signal with your lawyer or somebody else that reminds you that you're doing something. Much of these repetitive behaviors that we do when we're nervous, we don't even know we're doing them. And we sometimes need someone back there to go like 'this', to remind us that we should stop something. The other thing is don't click a pen!  This goes to lawyers and for parties. They're nervous and they're clicking a pen. When you bring a pen, bring one that doesn't have a clicker on it. Bring a pencil if you have to, but the clicking pen is really bad.


Steve Altishin  17:01  

Well, that makes so much sense. It's like, know what you want the judge to think is important, and think about if your dress, your anything, if it's going to be distracting from that point you're trying to make. Which takes me to the next point. Let's say I'm nervous. Why don't I just go over to the local saloon, have a couple of shots and come in smelling like alcohol? Or smelling like pot, or even cigarettes? It seems like those things would be something you might want to try to avoid, at least for your hearing.


Deanne Darling  17:45  

Yeah, the cigarettes thing. You know, that's a terrible addiction that I know is really hard for people. And I've learned to get past the cigarettes. But I really don't appreciate somebody that comes in, obviously high on any drug, or impaired and smelling of alcohol. I would venture to say, every judge knows what alcohol smells like. Either they have personal experience or professional experience, or they've raised children and the children have given them the experience when they were drinking when they shouldn't have been. So I think you should assume if you've been drinking, we will smell it. That tells us two things. One, you either have a problem you can't control. or two, you so disrespected the process that you thought happy-hour was a way to get ready. Those are not good messages, either one of them. So I think those are poor behaviors. They shouldn't happen. We will provide water to you in the courtroom if you ask. So if you're worried about your throat getting dry, we'll help you there, water is always available. Don't bring your big gulp, don't bring your Starbucks cups, don't bring things like that. And typically the sheriff will ask you to put them to the back. And in these COVID times, who do you know has been in it? So don't bring beverages into the courtroom unless it's bottled water and it's obvious that it's bottled water. The other thing you won't think about is these aluminum coffee cans. You know, the coffee cans and water cans that are made out of metal. The deputy is not going to let you bring those in the courtroom because if things go bad, they can be used as a weapon. You can hurt somebody with them and their job is to keep the courtroom safe. So do not bring any metal container into the courtroom.


Steve Altishin  19:29  

There's a lot of reasons for these that aren't just about impressing the judge. Like you said, there are rules that matter about real issues and problems beyond just impressing the judge. So you really need to think about the whole thing. and One of the things that I know sometimes can distract me when I'm talking to someone is the amount of cologne or perfume they put on. It's not like it's hot, but it's something that can distract you.


Deanne Darling  20:05  

Yeah, you want to be very careful about that. I also think, as part of your good grooming, brush your teeth and use your deodorant. Feel free to bring a handkerchief or something if you're worried that you're going to sweat too much. We know these are difficult times. We know. And we're taught to discount a lot of these behaviors because you're nervous. So don't worry about nervousness, I think just worry about being less than genuine, less than honest, less than respectful. Those are the worries. I want to segue real quick to something, which is cell phones. Oh, my goodness. We have to talk about cell phones. My worst case, I had a witness on the stand. I don't remember if it was a party or just a witness for the party, but she's on the stand with her purse, and her cell phone rings. And what does this person do? Reaches into her purse, pulls her cell phone out, answers it, and starts having conversation. 'Yeah I'm in court, yeah I'm on the witness stand. Uh huh. I'm testifying'. And I just, I didn't say a word. I could have held her in contempt of court and had an attitude and told the deputy to seize the phone. I just sat there for a while. And all of a sudden, fortunately, it dawns on this woman, that she has made a grievous error. And she looks at me, and I look at her. And she says, 'I think I have to go now,' and put her phone down. So that's an easy way of saying, turn off the ringer. Don't answer your phone in the courtroom. There is nothing so important that is going to overtake what's going on. And by all means, if you're sitting at the table as a litigant and wanting me to take you serious, I don't want to watch you playing solitaire on your phone, or reading a book. I had some guy fighting for custody, and he's talking about how important custody is with some very important witnesses on the stand. And he pulls out a book and starts reading it. Now that's not impressive, not impressive at all.


Steve Altishin  22:01  

Again, you're off message.


Deanne Darling  22:04  

Way off message!


Steve Altishin  22:05  

Oh, my God. The cellphone thing makes me think. Just today, I was listening, and one out of every four people now have a smart watch, an Apple Watch. And they don't think about that. Many times when I'm talking with people, they don't have their phone, we're having our meeting, and they don't even think about their watches. So the same kind of thing is happening.


Deanne Darling  22:34  

Correct. And I think you want to be real careful about that. We know all these toys cost money. So you're saying, 'I have money, I buy toys'. That might not be the message you want to give. I'd be very careful. The other thing is, you cannot record any proceeding in the courtroom. And I wanted the rule to be that none of these devices were allowed in the courtroom. But for reasons that are numerous and divergent, we've never gotten there as that being the rule. I can't see any reason why these devices have to be in the courtroom. But more and more people are bringing their computers, their phones, their watches. And if you get caught recording, you can expect that the deputy will seize your device, and it might be quite a while before you get it back. You also could end up in contempt of court. You could also end up in custody for a while if you do that. And there's more and more people that are disregarding the rule, that you probably don't want to do that. It would not be good. 


Steve Altishin  23:34  

This also goes for people in the back, people who are watching, the people who are guests who you brought with you, correct? 


Deanne Darling  23:40  

Correct. You want to tell all your court watchers and people that come as your moral support and all your witnesses, it's the same rules. The other thing I would tell you to tell your people in the back of the courtroom, and everybody that comes to court usually has somebody in the back of the courtroom that is kind of there for them. And what they do wrong, and you need to tell them to stop, is when somebody is testifying, and they don't like what they hear they're going 'Ugh!" Tell them they have to be stones, they can't do that. 


Steve Altishin  24:15  

Well that brings me to our next segment, which is acting appropriately in the courtroom, and addressing the judge with respect. I see that violated right and left. So what are the things that people need to be aware of in terms of acting appropriately? How should they address the judge? It may not be that they want to offend or annoy, they just aren't sure.


Deanne Darling  24:45  

So I think some people do want to annoy and offend, that's who they are. I think they're very small in number. And sometimes when those things happen, there's one in the negative column for that person. You can call us Judge, or Your Honor. Sometimes people have referred to me as a 'he' and they're just nervous, because traditionally men have been the judges. I have been called 'sir' more times than I could count. I think every female judge has. No offense taken. Almost everybody realizes what they've done and they say, 'Oh, I'm so sorry'. No problem. I think the thing that you shouldn't do is say like, 'Hi, Judge, how are you today?' And keep turning or winking or things like that that are so fake and so phony. We're watching you. You don't need to watch us. You don't need to play up to us. You don't need to suck up to us. Don't do any of that stuff. It's just too phony. Be kind to my staff. Be kind to the deputy. Say, 'Hi, how you doing?' Just simple words. Don't engage the deputies in conversation. Don't waste my staff's time with chit chat. If you have a question, ask them, but just don't waste their time, they can't get their job done. So you don't have to chat him up. When you were a little kid, did your parents tell you to address their friends as Mr. And Mrs.? I call everybody in my courtroom, Mr. or Mrs., or whatever surname or introductory term they've asked me to call them. I don't use first names because it's disrespectful. The judges sit up on a bench higher than you on purpose. And it's to say, this is respectful. I'm here making a decision. You have to look up a little bit at me, that's a sign of respect. I'm not looking down out of disrespect. It's saying, this is serious, this is important, and there are rules to follow. The last rule I want to talk about is, there's an area between the bench and the table where the lawyers sit. Now courtrooms have been refigured because of COVID, so that's changing a bit. But it's called the well. No one should ever walk there, you should never approach the bench. You should never approach the judge without getting permission first, or going through the bailiff or the clerk that's there. That's an area, and if there's a deputy in the courtroom and you start to approach the bench when you shouldn't, you can expect the deputy is going to put their hands on you. They're there to protect me and to protect you. So be very careful about that space. I think that's all I have to say on that.


Steve Altishin  27:21  

It makes such sense. People don't think of those things. The other thing is, it's a really tense, emotional, stressful time that you're in, especially like in a family law case. And it's easy to let your emotions get away from you. So, can you give a tip on how you can, I don't want to say take control back, because I'm not sure you want people to just be stoic, but you also don't want them to scream out, 'You liar,' which I imagine you've heard before.


Deanne Darling  28:05  

Oh, yes. Yeah, you're right. People are not robots, and the drama of life is real. So you don't have to get rid of all your emotions. I think what you want to do is hold them enough in check that they're not inconsistent with your message, or they overtake your message. Let's assume you're here telling me that you want custody of your child, and let's assume your child might be a high needs challenging child. Well, if you can't even hold up to a couple of questions from a lawyer or from me that are pretty innocuous without crying or falling apart, how could you possibly raise a high needs child? You need to convey to me that you're capable and competent, even under difficult circumstances. Some lawyers are real jerks, and they're not nice to you, and you just want to say something...don't do it. Take a breath. Ask if you can talk to your lawyer, ask the judge for a recess. If it's an appropriate time to cry, cry, but do your best to get yourself under control. And if you can't, ask the judge for a recess. Sometimes the judge will just say 'Do you need a few minutes to get yourself together?' And then go out and do it, and bring yourself back. People know how to calm themselves down. But don't fight all your emotions. If they're real, let them go. Just temper them a little, is what I'd say. And that may just be taking some deep breaths. A lot of people bring a rock and they just rub on a rock or something.


Steve Altishin  29:38  

Or they're clicking a pen!


Deanne Darling  29:41  

Yeah, clicking a pen, don't do that. Bring something that doesn't make noise.


Steve Altishin  29:47  

So we've hit a bunch of rules. And again, you act and try to follow the rules. What about other people? I mean, should you think about who you bring with you? My mind goes to children, small children. And also when you should arrive. I'm assuming you don't like people walking in late.


Deanne Darling  30:14  

No, late is a bad thing. Now sometimes we're late because we're called to do other things. But don't you be late. And all of your witnesses should be on time. It's really embarrassing for a lawyer to go, 'Okay, my next witness is Mrs. Jones'. And they go out in the hall and they go, 'I can't find Mrs. Jones'. Well, that just doesn't really look good. So you want your people there. Children-don't bring children, because they distract you. Children don't enjoy the courtroom. Now, the definition of children, for sure I would say nobody under about 12. Teenagers, they don't really care about this stuff. They can watch all the court TV they want. If they're a witness, that's a different story. But if they're just there, particularly in a family law case, we don't like the kids sitting through the courtroom stuff. That's really going to send a bad message to the judge. Now, if they're 18 years old, they're not kids anymore. They're technically adults, they have every right to be there. And you have to decide as a litigant, what does it offer? What's the message that the judge gets, and are you sure you want to do that? But little children shouldn't be there. You can make arrangements. Everybody's got somebody. And then as far as all your friends, I'd be really careful about just bringing a bunch of people. It never impressed me. I think people think, 'Okay, I have 12 friends in the back, and the other side's got one. Therefore, I win'. It doesn't work that way in our world. You could have nobody there, you could have people there. I just think you want to be careful about the people you bring. Are they going to send the right message? Are they going to behave appropriately? Because if you bring friends to the courtroom and they act badly, it's going to reflect badly on you because they're your friends. Particularly in a custody case, those are the people you're going to have the kid around. And if they're not behaving well, they're behaving inappropriately and saying bad things or acting poorly, I don't want those kids around those people. It doesn't help you one bit. So don't be afraid to come to court all by yourself, or with your lawyer. There is a funny story I'll say though, this is probably the exception. I was doing a divorce case one time for a couple, and all I know is that his name was Scott. And the soon-to-be ex-wife was, I don't know, maybe in her later 30s, blonde, very good looking. And in the back of the room were three other women that look just like her. And they weren't sisters. And it came out in the course of it that Scott got married and divorced on a regular basis, always to women who looked alike. And they all found each other and formed a club called The Exes of Scott. And every time a new one came in, they knew who she was. And when it was her turn to get divorced, they all showed up at her divorce. Now, that was funny. It didn't add anything to the case, but it was a fun story.


Steve Altishin  33:04  

Oh, you know,  it's preparation. You've got to prepare for your case! Something that I want to run back to is that it's not just you that may be distracted or annoyed or not able to hear. It's also the person themself. If they bring their kids or their friends, and they're looking back or they're being distracted. I mean, their job is to try to get you to do what they want, and anything that gets in the way of that, they should think about not doing.


Deanne Darling  33:44  

I agree with that. And the other thing that often happens is, whether it's a self represented litigant or litigant with a lawyer, the people in the back of the courtroom all of a sudden decide they're better lawyers than everybody at the table. And they're always coming up and tapping the lawyer or the client on the shoulder and whispering to them about something, or writing them a note about how they can handle the case better. That's really not good behavior. And even lawyer to client, let's assume the other side is on the stand. That lawyer is questioning that person, and you start talking to your lawyer. Now your lawyer can't hear what's going on, and so they can't help you. Paper and pen. If you have to exchange notes, use paper and pen. Don't get up in the middle of somebody's testimony and go sit by the people in the back of the room and start talking to them. Tell them not to come to you. If they can pass you a note or you can turn and realize there's something that has to happen, you can say, 'Judge, I just need a recess, I need to take care of something'. And most judges will do that if you are respectful in the request and say, 'Your Honor. Could I please have five minutes? I think there's something important my mother/my sister/my friend is trying to tell me'. Or here's another one, 'Your Honor, I need a recess use the restroom'. Us judges have trained our bladders to go all day, we're camel bladders. So if you need a break, you've got to ask us. There's nothing wrong with that. If you just walk out of the courtroom, that's bad. But if you say, 'Your Honor, I need five minutes to use the restroom'. Now you can take care of whatever you need to take care of, and come back in five minutes, because I'll be there.


Steve Altishin  35:23  

Coming back would be important.


Deanne Darling  35:25  

It's very important. If you're in Oregon City, which is where I was, Clackamas County, you've got parking meter problems. So by all means, if your meter is going to run out in two hours, try to find a longer meter. But if you're in a jam, say something, don't just fret about it.


Steve Altishin  35:39  

Right. These are so great. We could be here for another hour. But unfortunately, we've gone through our 30 minutes. 


Deanne Darling  35:48  

That went fast!


Steve Altishin  35:49  

That went fast. Did we miss anything? Do you have any additional words of wisdom, not like you haven't already given a bunch of them?


Deanne Darling  35:58  

Let me look real quick. Gum! Don't chew gum in the courtroom. It just looks bad and it interferes with how you talk.


Steve Altishin  36:10  

I'm assuming tobacco is the same thing? Don't chew tobacco.


Deanne Darling  36:14  

Yeah, and if you happen to be a chew tobacco kind of person, get rid of it before you come in. I realize that's hard. But that's a sacrifice you've got to make.


Steve Altishin  36:22  

Don't leave it lodged there in your gums.


Deanne Darling  36:25  

And then ask me for a cup and spit into it right next to me. No, don't do that.


Steve Altishin  36:30  

I love it. Oh, gosh. Well, thank you, Deanne, Judge Darling. I know we've known each other for more years than we care to admit.


Deanne Darling  36:41  

Law school days!


Steve Altishin  36:43  

Law school days. So this is wonderful. This was great information. And I really thank you for being here today. And anyone else who has been listening and has any further questions, you can shoot me an email at [email protected], or you can post it here and we can get you connected with some answers. We absolutely are happy to do that. Until next time everyone. Stay safe, and have a great day.



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