DRESS, CIVILITY AND COURT PROCEDURES
The following guidelines can help you understand some basic rules for your court appearance. When you come to court you must be dressed appropriately and behave with civility.
1. When you enter either courthouse you must go through security screening. It is against the law to bring weapons and contraband into the courthouses.
2. Always arrive in court a few minutes early. Bring your Order to Appear/Subpoena and all of your relevant documents with you. Do not bring your children with you unless absolutely necessary or required.
3. In criminal cases, if you do not appear at the scheduled time an arrest warrant will be issued.
4. In civil cases, if you do not appear at the scheduled time, your case may be heard without you or dismissed. In some cases, a warrant will be issued for not obeying a court order to appear.
5. Wear long pants or a dress, shoes and an appropriate shirt without slogans or advertisements. Pants must be worn at the waist, covering the hips, without displaying underwear, as required by Lafourche Parish Ordinance 15:18 and La. R.S. 14:106. Do not wear shower shoes, flip-flops, shorts or gang symbols. Do not wear “political cause” buttons or vulgar words on your clothing. Remove sunglasses and hats inside the courthouses.
6. Be courteous to everyone in the courthouse. Showing anger or hostility will not help your case. Do not curse, use vulgar gestures or call people insulting names. Do not threaten, confront or argue with people in the courthouses. When finished, leave peacefully.
7. Make sure to turn off all cell phones and smart phones before entering the courtroom. If it is left on and interrupts court, or if you attempt to use it during court, the bailiff will seize it. You will then face a contempt hearing with the judge, possibly resulting in jail or a fine, before it will be returned to you.
8. Recording or taking pictures in court is not allowed by law. Any attempt to do so could result in your being held in contempt of court with a penalty of jail, fines or both.
9. If you have hearing problems or a serious medical condition, notify court personnel before the trial begins.
10. Notify the court more than fifteen (15) days in advance if you need a sign language or foreign language interpreter.
11. The bailiff has control of the courtroom when the judge is not on the bench or court is in recess. You are to follow his/her instructions and directions.
12. When your case is called to begin, you will be instructed where to be seated.
13. Because the judge will be making the decision in your case, the judge is not allowed to talk to you about your case outside of court unless all parties are present. Do not try to talk with the judge or have anyone else do so. Also, the judge cannot give you legal advice about your case.
14. Do not leave the courtroom until your case is over and the judge excuses you.
SELF REPRESENTED LITIGANTS
You have a right represent yourself, but with that right comes the responsibility to follow proper procedures.
In criminal cases, it is generally better to have a lawyer assist you when you have a pending matter that can result in you being sentenced to jail. If the judge agrees that you cannot afford a lawyer, one can be appointed to represent you.
In civil cases, you do not have the right to a court appointed lawyer.
In addition, when representing yourself, you are responsible to follow these rules:
1. Before coming to the courthouse, reveiw and comply with the Dress, Civility and Procedures section above.
2. Stand when speaking in court, and speak loudly and into the microphone. Speak only to the judge or the witness when questioning them.
3. Do not interrupt or argue with others. You will have your turn to present your side of the case, to ask your witnesses questions, and to question the other side’s witnesses. You and your witnesses will be questioned by the other side.
4. If you wish to have a witness ordered to appear at the trial, you must make the request in writing to the Clerk of Court, including correct name and address, together with payment of the Clerk’s fees. This should be done at least two (2) weeks before the trial.
5. Do not interfere with a witness by making gestures, noises, or by shaking or nodding your head during their testimony. Do not “coach” your witness or tell them what to say.
6. Witnesses may be “sequestered” which will require them to remain outside the courtroom during the trial until it is their turn to testify. The judge will order them not to talk about the case with anyone while the case is going on. When they testify they can only testify about what they know of their own knowledge and not about what they heard you or anyone else say.
7. When you and witnesses testify, questions must be answered truthfully and should only answer the questions asked. Do not ramble or make offensive comments about anyone.
8. There are links to several helpful forms in the Self Represented PDF above and on the “Contact Us” page of this website.
When you receive a Subpoena for Jury Duty, follow these instructions:
1. Fill out the Juror Questionnaire and return it to the appropriate division of court before the date you are scheduled to appear.
2. Call the phone number shown on the subpoena after 4:30 pm (not earlier) the day before you are scheduled to appear.
3. Before coming to the courthouse, review and comply with the Dress, Civility and Court Procedure guidelines listed above.
4. Arrive at the courthouse earlier than the time set out on the subpoena because you will be required to go through security screening. Be prepared to wait in line due to the number of other people attending.
5. Do not speculate, guess or investigate about the case, or ask others what they know or have heard.
6. To be qualified to serve on the jury, you must be 18 years of age or older, and a citizen of both the United States and the State of Louisiana. You must have lived within Lafourche Parish for at least one year immediately before the day you are scheduled to appear. And you must be able to read, write and speak English.
7. You may claim an exemption from jury duty if you are 70 years old or older, or you have served on a grand jury or petit jury within two years of the the date you are scheduled to appear. Even if you meet one of these exemptions, you may choose to not to claim it.
8. If you fail to obey the jury subpoena that you have received, and do not appear on the date you are scheduled to appear, a contempt warrant may be issued for your arrest.