Interacting with trial court staff

  Photo:  The Hon. Michael Heavey's clerk during the trial January 2011

Photo:  The Hon. Michael Heavey's clerk during the trial January 2011

Most of us have no idea what the clerk and bailiff actually do.  We suspect the Judge gives them instructions that they carry out.  We tend to mix them up and view them as indistinguishable.  But they are quite different.

In trial, the clerk is in charge of the physical trial exhibits and court documents.  The bailiff takes care of the jury and courtroom set up.

Attorneys who stomp around the courtroom and act rudely to court staff create bad karma.  You know the feeling.  If someone is rude and disrespectful towards you, the response is to either tune them out or become hostile.   Both are natural human defense mechanisms.  Jury trials in negative energy courtrooms aren't real fun.

Here are some tips on dealing with court staff:

  • Learn their names and address them properly
  • Always say please and thank you
  • Don't walk up to the bench and expect they are there to serve you instantly.  Wait until they are finished with their task and ready to help you
  • If they ask you to do something do it
  • If you need clarification, ask for it
  • Always say please and thank you
  • Do not rearrange any furniture in the courtroom without first getting the bailiff's permission
  • Do not set up equipment without first getting the bailiff's permission
  • Do not create any trip or other hazards.  If you need to tape down extension cords bring your own painter's tape (not duct tape)
  • It's okay to talk to staff during recess about life, so long as they want to talk
  • Do not try to hand anything directly to the judge.  All things must be passed through the clerk
  • Always say please and thank you
  • Do not bang on the courtroom door trying to get in at the begining of the day or after recess.  Staff will let you back in when it is time
  • Do not hang around the courtroom after the court excuses everyone for lunch or at the end of the day.  Get out of there so staff can go on break or leave.
  • When the Judge is off the bench, don't act as if staff are invisible. They can see and hear even if they are being quiet.
  • In emails, always say please and thank you

And perhaps the most important of all - don't eat everything in the candy dish (unless you replenish it occasionally).