Court FYIs

In the Courtroom Overview


When you enter the courthouse, you will have to go through a security entrance, where your belongings will be scanned, and you will walk through a metal detector. Try to put all metal items through the scanner. Many courts don’t allow cellphones in the building or courtroom while some do allow cellphones on silent or completely off.  


The courtroom will have rows of seats and an area in front of the judge called a well. There will be tables in the well where the parties sit when their case is before the judge. There may also be a podium to stand at. Do not go into the well until your case is called. When your case is called, you will either sit at one of the tables or address the judge from the podium (if you have a quick traffic matter, you will likely stand at the podium; if you have a trial, you will likely be sitting at a table).  

There will be bailiffs there who are from the local sheriff’s department. They monitor the courtroom for safety and remind people to be quiet. There may be a lot of cases on the docket the day that you are in court, so try to be patient and not talk while you are sitting in the courtroom. If you have to speak to your attorney, try to talk outside the courtroom or in an attorney interview room.  

Criminal/Traffic Pro Se

Pro se means that you are representing yourself. Situations where you may be representing yourself are when it's a minor traffic ticket that you are disputing or a low-level misdemeanor. In both of those situations, you would be facing a fine. When your case is called, you will go before the judge and the police officer will address the court first with their account of what happened. You will be given the chance to ask the officer questions (cross-examine). If the officer is the only witness for the Commonwealth, the judge will next ask you if you want to testify or if you have witnesses. You can call your witnesses one at a time. Generally, it's not about the quantity of the testimony but the quality, so each witness should provide a different piece to the puzzle of your version of the facts. The judge may ask you or your witnesses some questions. After that, you will have a chance to address the court as to why the facts demonstrate you should not have been charged/did not commit an offense and the judge will make a decision. 

Small Claims

You will be representing yourself in small claims court where attorneys are not allowed. If you are the party who initiated the case, you are called the plaintiff and the judge will hear from you first about your claim. You may call witnesses to testify to different facts that help your case and you may testify yourself. The judge will then permit the defendant to do the same and give each side a chance to tell the judge why they should win. The judge will then make a decision. 


You should wear at least business casual clothing. Double check with your attorney if you are not sure.  


More Questions?

For specific questions and advice, please fill out an Intake form to request a consultation. Refer to our Request a Consultation Page for more information about eligibility and confidentiality. 

Disclaimer: The information provided on this website is for general information purposes only and is not meant to advise on any particular legal issue. Laws change every year and it is possible that the information is no longer current or valid. For help with specific legal issues, you should consult an attorney.