HOW TO REPRESENT YOURSELF IN COURT
The guide is meant to help someone who is not represented by a lawyer understand the general rules and procedures of a civil court case in Louisiana. It is not a complete guide to the law nor does it discuss every issue or aspect of the law that may affect your case.
This information is not meant to replace State laws or Court Rules. The purpose of this guide is to give general information and make it easier to represent yourself in court. You have a right to represent yourself in court, but it comes with the responsibility to follow certain court rules and procedures.
1. The Judge or Hearing Officer is not allowed to talk with you about your case unless all parties are present. Do not try to contact the Judge or Hearing Officer and do not have someone else do it for you.
2. It is in your best interest to find an attorney to represent you. If you would like to find an attorney, tell the Judge or Hearing Officer before the trial that you would like to have time to do so. The Judge or Hearing Officer will decide what the procedure will be. To find an attorney, click here.
3. When your case is called, come to one of the tables and sit down. Stand when the Judge or Hearing Officer enters or leaves the courtroom; stand when speaking to the Judge or Hearing Officer, and when questioning a witness. You may use the podium when speaking.
4. Speak only to the Judge or Hearing Officer or to the witness when questioning and not to the opposing side. Do not argue with the Judge or Hearing Officer or with a witness. If you testify, answer all answers truthfully and confine your answers to the questions asked.
5. Ask the Judge's or Hearing Officer's permission before approaching the Bench or a witness.
6. Do not “coach” your witness or tell them what to say. Their testimony must be free from anyone else's influence.
7. If you want to discuss a settlement or try mediation, tell the Judge or Hearing Officer before the trial starts. Mediators are trained and will try to help you avoid a lengthy and expensive trial. If mediation fails and there is no settlement, you can still have a trial.
8. Always arrive in court a few minutes early. Bring all your documents with you. Pre-mark your exhibits to show your designation (Plaintiff or Defendant) and number each one. Example: (Pl. Exhibit 1) If possible, bring 2 extra copies--one for the Judge or Hearing Officer, and one for the other side.
9. If you are ill or have another unavoidable difficulty getting to court on time, call the Judge's or Hearing Officer's office staff and explain the situation. The Judge or Hearing Officer will decide what to do next. The Judge or Hearing Officer may ask you for documentation.
10. Court proceedings are expensive and time consuming. Do not waste time in Court on information not related to your case. Present your best witness first (this may be YOU).
11. Do not leave the courtroom until the Judge or Hearing Officer excuses you. If the case is postponed, tell the Judge or Hearing Officer you would like to have your witness ordered to return on the new date.
12. If the Judgeor Hearing Officer orders that witnesses wait in the hall when not testifying, make sure your witnesses obey. Otherwise, they may not be allowed to testify.
13. Don't cause unnecessary delay. Be prepared for trial, with your exhibits marked, and arrive on time.
General Court Rules
1. Never bring weapons to court. It is against the law to do so.
2. In court, wear long pants or a dress, shoes, and an appropriate shirt without slogans or advertisements. Do not wear shower shoes, shorts, hats or gang symbols. Do not curse, use vulgar gestures, or call people insulting names.
3. Speak loudly enough to be heard, but do not shout. If you have hearing or medical issues, tell the Judge or Hearing Officer before the trial.
4. Be courteous to everyone. Any vulgarity or hostility could harm your case.
5. Stand when speaking to the Judge or Hearing Officer or to a witness.
6. Do not interrupt, even if you believe something is untrue. You will have your turn to speak, cross examine your opponent’s witnesses, and present your own witnesses.
7. Do not bring food, drinks, gum, or tobacco to the courtroom.
8. Turn your cell phone off or leave it in your car. Do not take any pictures in court. Do not text or play games with your cell phone. It may be confiscated.
9. Do not threaten, confront, or argue with people inside or outside of the courtroom.
10. Do not interfere with a witness by making gestures, noises, or by shaking or nodding your head during testimony.