Friday, October 16, 2009

Attorney Decorum in courtroom

Of all people to observe decorum in a courtroom, attorneys ought to be at the head of the line. The rules are probably taught in law school; they are posted online. And judges and bailiffs (okay, "courtroom security officers") could enforce them.

How often should the word "shit" be heard in a courtroom?

If it is part of direct testimony, then you might occasionally hear the word in court.

If the court is in temporary recess and an attorney is telling a story about bear-hunting in Canada, and he says "shit" several times within earshot of other lawyers, defendants and visitors in the courtroom? Never!

And when it is used repeatedly in conversation in the courtroom, what should an attorney who overhears it do? Say something to his colleague! Step up to the plate!

Lawyers commonly accord respect to their colleagues at the bench. For an attorney to walk away from the bench while either opposing counsel or the judge is speaking ought to be unforgiveable. If an attorney needs a form from the rack along the wall, he might, at the appropriate time, step over to get it and immediately return his attention to the matter before the judge. To turn away and smirk or laugh, while either opposing counsel or the judge is speaking?

One warning. That's all. But this morning? No warnings.

I've observed in many courtrooms over the years, and I have never before seen such behavior by an attorney in court.

Only two phones rang in Judge Condon's courtroom this morning. The phone of one attorney rang loudly (you know, those obnoxious ring tones) and the attorney hurried from the courtroom to silence it in the hallway. A few minutes later, a telephone of a visitor in the courtroom rang.

Voices could be heard in the vestibule with the door to the courtroom open, with no action from the bailiff. Voices of attorneys, I mean. The bailiff should act promptly to quiet people, including attorneys, whose conversations interfere with the quiet and decorum of a courtroom.

And my favorite pet peeve in McHenry County courts? Why don't judges and all lawyers speak up so that they can be heard within the courtroom?

When cases are called, it's easy to hear the name. Then voices drop to a mumble. If a judge and lawyers just spoke in normal conversational tone, their voices could be heard. If they can't muster up the breath, then install microphones and amplify the sound in the courtroom.

The microphones are apparently already there, so why not wire them to speakers so that the public can hear what's happening in court???

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