» Practice in General, Professionalism » Courtroom Manners

Courtroom Manners

In a certain jurisdiction where I regularly find myself practicing, defense attorneys line up to call their cases. Generally, it works out well. If I have a quick matter, like a continuance, the other attorneys let me go first. If I know I’m going to be there for a while, I’ll let other attorneys go ahead. Of course, my primary concern is what my client wants. If my clients want me to call the case as soon as possible, unless there’s a compelling reason not to, that’s exactly what I do.

A couple months ago, an attorney showed up (I was the first person in the courtroom, but I was speaking with the bailiff) and went straight to the front. His entire demeanor was arrogant and pushy from the start, and it was clear that he was determined that his case would be the first one called. When I asked him what kind of hearing he had, he asked me why I wanted to know then refused to tell me. I had another hearing to attend and DOC hadn’t transported my client, so I had good reason to hurry and my case wouldn’t have taken long at all.

That situation would not have stood out to me if the attorney’s case hadn’t been a probation violation hearing and he hadn’t talked his client into entering an admission in open court. It was a relatively long case to call and it appeared that he not discussed the admission with his client at all. On top of that, from what I could tell, the court wanted to set the matter for a sentencing right away because the client was in custody and going to be reinstated, but the attorney insisted on a very lengthy continuance. He got it, after citing personal reasons like previously-scheduled vacations and “busy weeks.” What he didn’t do was bother getting a change of release conditions for his client.

The reason I mention this is because that attorney managed to, in one fell swoop, irritate a number of attorneys and show a courtroom full of people that his own interests trump that of his client. Another attorney whispered, “that guy really isn’t making any friends today.” I have to agree, as he certainly didn’t make his client happy, and he showed other attorneys that he was neither a gracious colleague nor particularly interested in doing what is in his clients’ best interests.

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