Most of us will never be required to testify at the level the world witnessed last week when former FBI Director James Comey took the “hot seat”. However, I think we can all benefit from a few courtroom etiquette tips that are useful at any judicial level.
PROTOCOL PLEASE. As I watched and listen to the hearing unfold, these are some of the etiquette practices that caught my attention. (1) There was one point person. Everyone knew who was in-charge of carrying out the agenda. (2) Every senator was allotted a certain amount of time and they honored it. (3) There were no verbal interruptions, rolling of eyes or sighing during the Q&A period, well maybe one. Everyone acted in a very civil and respectful manner.
BLACK IS NOT THE NEW BLUE. The dominant color of the day was navy blue. Some were darker than others but all are considered a navy blue. Navy has long been considered “the business suit”. Because of its richness every skin tone can wear navy blue. Navy blue sends a message of authority, tradition and being accomplished. The major players involved in the hearing possesse those qualities. James Comey’s suit may have been black. That would have been acceptable as the color black conveys a message of being without emotion, stoic and stern. The FBI agents we see regularly do not emote at all. I was interviewed by an agent once, when a friend was applying for a federal position, and the agent was as stoic as they come. Senator Dianne Feinstein chose to go “ole school” with a seasonal and traditional seersucker look. Seersucker is a cotton fabric with a puckered texture that allows air to move in and out, keeping the body cool. This process is known as transpiration. The seersucker suit is synonymous with court room scenes shot in the deep, hot and humid southern states. It’s an alternative (during the summer) to the traditional dark, wool business suit.
CAN YOU HEAR ME KNOW? Former FBI Director James Comey’s hearing was what I would call “high court”. Most of us will never participate at that level of the judicial system. But did you notice there were no cell phones ringing or vibrating? Did you notice no one just “happened” to check their phone in the middle of the hearing? Did you see any of James Comey’s supporters face timing the event? Did you see any wireless jewelry around any of the senator’s neck? The answer is “N-O”, no you didn’t. The judicial system is one of our most esteemed institutions. It’s one of the most formal practices in our society. Thursday was a perfect display of hundreds of professionals who were disconnected from the world of technology for at least 2 hours. Some of us begin to shake like an addict if our phones are off for 20 minutes.
TOTAL ATTENTION How many of you caught James Comey’s body language as he accepted and answered questions? Mr.Comey turned his chair slightly (from side to side) to entertain each of the senators during their allotted time. Proper court etiquette suggests turning your upper body to face the person asking the questions. You should also turn your legs, feet and upper body to face the judge as you give your response. Giving your full attention to the decision maker is the ultimate goal.
So there you have it, Courtroom Etiquette, 101. Be punctual, be prepared and remember to address the court as “Your honor”. These simple etiquette tips will help prepare you for success when You have Your day in court.
Terry Brooks-Allen, BS
Etiquette and Image Consultant
Terry Brooks-Allen is one of central Indiana's top ten leading Etiquette Specialists and Image Consultants, coaching and training
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