Advice for Courtroom Success

Mace Greenfield Client/Litigant/Pro Se Information

The symbols of the American court system are the scales of justice. As such, people mistakenly believe that truth and justice are the pillars of this hallowed structure. However, I am here to tell you that truth and justice, as you understand them, only exist in superhero comic books. It does not exist in real life. One person’s justice is another person’s injustice. As for truth, there are many truths that are all true at the same time. We see things through different eyes of experience and perspective. .


This holds especially true in divorce and family law cases. If you do not appear in control of yourself at all times, it will adversely affect your chances for child custody, increased child visitation, and could cause you to lose a domestic violence proceeding and be put out of your own house even if you never anything wrong. The judge only knows what he or she sees of you in the courtroom.


In the enduring philosophy of Plato’s Republic, Socrates presents four types of people: the just person who appears just and everything goes his way; the unjust person who appears unjust and nothing goes his way; the unjust person who appears just , and most things go his way; and finally, the just person who appears unjust, and very little goes his way. As true as it was then, it is still true today.


Image, appearance, and presentation are the priorities that must be considered first and foremost – if you ever hope to have the truth considered. If you want your truth to be heard and considered, you’d better have the right presentation of your facts and beliefs as well as a good appearance and image. When you go to court, always dress as if you’re going to a Fortune 500 corporate board of directors meeting. You were thrown out of the house? You don’t have a suit? You have very little cash? Borrow from your mother or someone. For less than two hundred dollars, get yourself a suit, a shirt, and a tie at one of the advertised warehouses. Clean under your fingernails and get a haircut. Show the court you respect yourself and you respect the court. If the court treats you poorly then, consider how much worse it would have been otherwise.


One of the first pieces of advice clients ask of me is usually for the right things to say. There is an inherent problem with this question. Knowing when not to speak – which is the majority of times – is far more valuable. This means being in complete control of yourself. More so for the man than for the woman because when the man sits there while woman’s lawyer is speaking what he believes are lies and slander, shaking his head, making faces and verbal interruptions all tell the judge that you are every bit as out of control as your wife accuses.


So don’t interrupt. Do not speak unless it’s your turn. But your wife is doing it too? Be aware that there is gender bias and overcompensate as such. Women are expected to be emotional. If you both do it – it will be accepted for her and not for you.


However, if you completely control yourself and, when you hear things you don’t like, you just look remorsefully at your feet (if you’re sitting at the lawyer table with your lawyer, make believe it is a glass table and look through it down at your feet), your wife’s behavior will be seen in stark contrast to yours. This will irritate the judge and reflect positively on you.


Women: you need to control your emotions as well. Unless there are instances that are legitimately justified, such as domestic abuse situations that recall trauma, keep your voice steady and stick to the facts of the case.


Get the emotions out of it. There are 2000 other lawyers on Long Island that love to litigate emotion. It takes longer and it costs more. That cost is not limited to financial cost, but to the emotional health and well-being of all involved, including the children. Heed this advice to make an unfortunate and difficult process easier.