Courtroom Behavior

May 20, 2022

By Thomas McCutcheon

I have appeared in courts all over the southeast. I have argued cases before the Alabama Supreme Court and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. I’ve appeared in night courts in every small town in Northwest Alabama. I’ve been a small town City Court Judge. Invariably, every judge of every court prefers that people be represented by attorneys. Let’s talk about why.

People representing themselves often do not understand the issue or issues that the court is to decide and can decide. People representing themselves rarely, if ever, know how to obtain testimony from the other side by asking questions. People representing themselves can lose their temper and lose their case while making the judge angry all at the same time.

Judges want to do justice while following the law. If the person before them doesn’t know and understand the law, they can’t present the law. Judges are always limited to what issues they can decide.

For example, if a police officer writes a ticket for speeding, the issue is, did the driver exceed the speed limit at the time and place in question. It could very well be that the method by which the police officer obtained the speed of the vehicle in question was not properly done, but at the end of the day, if the speed limit is 55 and the person accused says they were going 56, they might as well have pled guilty. That is the issue before that court.

If a person is issued a speeding ticket and their defense is that they want to “tell on” the officer for being rude, that is not an issue before the court. The judge doesn’t have the authority to fire the police officer and won’t find you “not guilty” if you were in fact speeding because you think the officer was impolite. 

The problem is that people representing themselves become frustrated when they don’t understand what the issues are and why they can’t tell their side of the story if that story doesn’t have anything to do with the issues before the court.

If you have a legal issue that’s important to you, talk to a lawyer about it before you step into the courtroom.

Buckle up, drive safely, and as always, your referrals are appreciated!

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