Preparing for Court

This guide is for people who already have a legal dispute that is being decided by a court or at an agency hearing and do not have a lawyer.

At least 1 week before your court date, contact the court if you need:

  • An interpreter
  • Wheelchair access

Get organized

  • Make sure you have all the documents you need for your court case.
  • Bring original documents. (Have copies available in case you need them.) For records from a government office or agency, get certified copies from that agency or government office.
  • Decide what you want out of the case – this will help you evaluate any possibilities of settling your case without a trial.
  • Prepare a page of notes to read from with all the points you want to make so you don't forget anything. Be ready with dates, names, addresses, and dollar amounts.

Be on time

  • Get to the courthouse 30 minutes early to go through the security check and to find the right courtroom.
  • When you find your courtroom, tell your name to the clerk or the court officer.

When you enter the courtroom

  • Turn off your cell phone.
  • Take off your hat.
  • Throw away your chewing gum.

Show respect for the Judge

  • Look at the Judge when he or she is asking you a question.
  • Speak loud enough for the Judge to hear you.
  • Do not interrupt the Judge.
  • Wait until the Judge finishes the question before you give your answer.

Speaking in court

  • Be ready to state your name.
  • After you state your name, you will be asked to raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth.
  • You must speak your answer out loud. Do not just nod or shake your head.
  • If one of the lawyers says "objection" after you have been asked a question, stop talking. Then wait for the Judge to tell you if you can answer the question.
  • If you do not understand something, say "I don't understand" and ask the Judge to repeat the question.

For More Information

More Information About Representing Yourself in Court