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General Courtroom Etiquette

Updated February 21, 2017

Courtroom etiquette varies somewhat depending on the type of court as well as on the jurisdiction that oversees the particular courtroom. Overall, however, you will find a level of uniformity among various courtrooms regarding fundamentals of courtroom etiquette. These fundamental matters of etiquette encompass such issues as appropriate dress, punctuality, orderly conduct, courtesy, prohibited items or conduct and honesty in reference to courtroom proceedings.

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Courtroom etiquette actually begins at home; that is, courtroom etiquette begins with the choice of wardrobe. Courts expect that anyone present in the courtroom will wear "suitable attire." Typically, courtrooms do not allow attendees to wear shorts, tank tops, poorly fitted clothes, soiled clothes, jeans, T-shirts and such footwear as flip-flops or sneakers. Court etiquette also requires the removal of any hats upon entering the courtroom.


For those attending specific events, courtrooms expect punctuality. Some jurisdictions require participants in actual proceedings to arrive a specified interval before the scheduled proceeding will commence, such as 15 or 20 minutes in advance of the scheduled time.


Courtroom etiquette regards orderliness as paramount in terms of the progression of courtroom proceedings. This encompasses such expectations as attendees behaving in a quiet and decorous manner in terms of personal conduct. Orderliness also encompasses muting or turning off any electronic devices, including but not limited to cell phones and pagers in such jurisdictions as do allow such devices in the courtroom; some do not.


Courtroom etiquette also regards courtesy as paramount in reference to the ongoing proceedings. Any attendees must conduct themselves courteously towards the judge, all court personnel and anyone else in the court precincts.


Courtrooms prohibit certain items or behaviours while in the courtroom. Typically, courtrooms do not allow any food or drink inside the courtroom. Also prohibited in the courtroom is the use of any tobacco product, as well as chewing gum. Additionally, not only do courtrooms prohibit any weapons [except if entered as evidence] in the courtroom itself, many jurisdictions as of April 2010 prohibit weapons anywhere in the court building, with the exception of law enforcement officers and courtroom staff who may have cause for using them in the course of duty.


A final matter of etiquette in reference to the courtroom addresses the matter of truthfulness. This typically concerns only participants in the actual proceedings; however, such participants must speak truthfully at all times. The rendering of falsehoods during proceedings is looked upon as a breach of courtroom etiquette. More seriously, it is also in itself a criminal act--the crime of perjury--and can have serious consequences if discovered.

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About the Author

Christine Lebednik

A writer/editor since 1984, Christine Lebednik has spent much of her career in business and technical writing, and editing. Her consumer print and online articles include product descriptions for TDMonthly Online, book reviews for Catholic News Service, consumer reports for Consumer Search and works for various other publications. Lebednik received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Salem State College.

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