For many people, this will be the first time that you have ever entered a courthouse. By this time, you will have used the last several days, or even weeks, with your attorney to go over what needs to be said and what questions the other party will be asked. It is unlikely that the judge will make any large decisions at your first court hearing, but you will still want to be sure that you are prepared for whatever may come up. Before you take the drive downtown, there are a few crucial things you need to do:
Have every document organized and ready.
Your lawyer will most likely have a briefcase or binder with your documents prepared well in advance, but that does not mean that you should arrive empty-handed. Having your own copy of motions, petitions or other documentation will only ensure that you will be prepared for whatever is asked of you. It also may help you feel more confident knowing that if the judge or attorneys reference document pages and paragraphs, you can follow along if you want to.
It is important to look your best. There will be someone with the title of “judge” who will be sitting across from you and doing exactly what their title suggests – judging. Although the outcome of your case will most likely have nothing to do with your attire and your nicely trimmed facial hair (if applicable), it is nevertheless a good idea to ensure the judge sees that you made the effort to take this life event seriously.
*Note: When entering the courthouse, there will be a security check that requires all of your belongings, including hats and belts, to be screened. You will then need to walk through a metal detector. If it chimes as you walk through, simply follow the instructions given by the officer on the other side. Please do not attempt to bring weapons into the building.
Be on time.
Plan ahead and be sure to give yourself enough time to drive down to the courthouse, find parking, walk to the building, get through security, and take the elevators to the correct floor. Expect that there will be traffic during your drive. Once you are inside, there is an information desk immediately following the security check where court personnel can assist you in finding your court room and floor level, if needed. If your attorney is not already there waiting in the lobby, just have a seat outside the courtroom and they will arrive typically 5-15 minutes before the hearing starts. Being even just a few minutes late to a hearing does not look good to a judge, and excessive tardiness without advance notice can have long-lasting, negative consequences on the outcome of your case.