20 Ways to Impress the Judge When Testifying in Court

General Litigation

1. Dress professionally and appropriately. It is not necessary to dress like a lawyer, but conservative and “business casual” is a good rule. Do wear tidy clothing and groom yourself neatly. You want to be taken seriously by the judge.

2. Show up on time in the right place. Make sure you know ahead of time what courthouse you need to go to. You may not know the exact courtroom before the day of court. If you do not, you can consult a sheriff in the courthouse who will direct you to a wall that shows all the matters being heard in court and what courtroom they are in.

3. You may have to wait outside the courtroom before your testimony. Ask your lawyer where you should wait. When you are called in, you will make your way to the witness box to the side and in front of the judge’s bench where you will either swear or affirm to tell the truth.

4. Be aware that there is a chance that you will not be called to testify at the scheduled time and you may have to return at another time.

5. Do not bring bottled water, coffee, or food into the courtroom. You will be offered water while you testify, or if you are not, you can ask the lawyer questioning you.

6. When the judge comes into the courtroom and leaves the courtroom, the clerk will say, “All rise”. Stand up until either the judge sits down or leaves the room.

7. If you are in Provincial Court, when you address the judge, you will call him or her “Your Honour”. If you are in Supreme Court, you will address the judge as “My Lord” or “My Lady”.

8. If you are a professional witness, consult your file before you go to court so the facts are fresh in your mind. If you need to look at your notes during your testimony to refresh your memory, ask permission.

9. Listen carefully to the questions you are being asked and only answer the specific question asked. Do not provide extra information. Do not exaggerate, or ramble on.

10. Do not interrupt a lawyer asking you a question before he or she has finished asking. Wait until the lawyer stops speaking. Obviously, you should never interrupt a judge either.

11. If you do not understand the question or you did not hear the question, ask the lawyer to repeat or rephrase it.

12. Never guess an answer or make an answer up. If you do not know the answer to the question being asked, simply say that you do not know or you do not remember as the case may be.

13. If you make a mistake in your evidence, correct it as soon as you can.

14. When you are giving evidence, make sure you look at the judge and not at the lawyer asking the question. You are providing information to the court and not to the lawyer. This may feel awkward, but it will help the judge follow your evidence.

15. Speak clearly when you are answering. Do not use gestures or noises instead of words (ie. nodding your head or saying “mmhmm” instead of “yes”). There is a transcript being made of what is happening in court and this sort of thing does not translate onto the record.

16. Do not refuse to answer a question. If a question is inappropriate, the other lawyer will object, and the judge will decide whether you must answer or not.

17. Try not to argue with a lawyer questioning you, and do not display anger or rudeness. Remain calm and neutral. Stick to the facts as you know them.

18. When testifying, you are there to provide the court with facts. Do not volunteer your opinions or conclusions on matters in issue.

19. Try to avoid testifying about what someone else told you because this is called “hearsay” and normally not permissible evidence. Where possible, only relay your own observations.

20. Try to relax and be natural.