Civility in the Courtroom: A Judge's Perspective

Senior Judge Gerald Hardcastle, Civility in the Courtroom: A Judge’s Perspective, 17 NEV. LAW. 6 (2009). 

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Judge Hardcastle argues that practicing civility serves the long-term interests of attorneys and clients. He notes that a top complaint is frustration with their colleagues’ lack of professionalism. Civility, Judge Hardcastle posits, can foster relationships of respect and appreciation among lawyers, thus improving overall satisfaction. Attorneys practicing civility in the courtroom create more positive relationships with judges and, as a result, are more successful for their clients. In this way, Judge Hardcastle says that “civility is good lawyering.”

Judge Hardcastle offers some common rules regarding civility in the courtroom, particularly as it pertains to attorneys and judges. First, he suggests that careful preparation, clearly articulated and succinct arguments, and honesty cause judges to trust a lawyer, leading to a greater success in the courtroom. Judge Hardcastle also notes that a civil lawyer is one who accepts a judge’s ruling, subject to review, and is able to maintain emotional self-control. He advises that after an adverse decision, a lawyer should “thank the judge and opposing counsel for their courtesy, and leave the courtroom....[A]n appropriate motion supported by law and reason,” rather than an immediate attack, is more likely to get a favorable result. Finally, Judge Hardcastle advises that lawyers learn and observe local rules and engage in polite behavior (i.e. arriving on time, refraining from eating or drinking beverages, etc.).