Client Education Series Court Appearances, Coping With Stress During Criminal Prosecution

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talking to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

Welcome back to the client education series as we are going to be representing you and helping your family. In the last video, I closed with make sure your family is controlling stress and we know what that is. And what that is is we are going to send whoever contacts us a free e-book you can download on your phone. Why? That is the very beginning of coping with stress during criminal prosecution and we expect you and your family members to use coping with stress during the criminal prosecution. If your family does not use it, then they are going to get in your ear, they are going to create doubt, the prosecutor loves it, they want us arguing and fighting and disagreeing and you have doubts, I mean that makes our job easy, it makes it easy to convict somebody if you have dissension on the defense team, especially between attorney and client. So, I want to reemphasize coping with stress during the criminal prosecution, I would rather drive you crazy with it than have you blow it off because I have seen people blow their lives up because they do not control stress. We do not want that happening to you or your family.

However, now, we are talking about court attendance. And what does that have to do with controlling stress? If you walk into court emotionally on a scale of 1 to 10 as 1, you are gone. When I go to court, I expect that I am a technical 10. After all, I am board-certified as a specialist. And secondly, I have to be an emotional 10. For years, I use to tell people if my beloved dog Stumpy died, I would not be able to attend the court because I may be a technical 10 but I would be an emotional 1. And the same is true if you have a family member die or something happened that affects your mood. Well, sure enough, last year, my dog actually died and I actually had to follow through and take that day off. Not because I could not accomplish things, it is because my standard is I am a 10 emotionally when I am handling legal matters. That is critical.

Think about it. When you are working, if you are having one of those days where you could whip hell with a water gun, isn’t that a better day, don’t you perform better than those days when hell could flick ash in your general direction that misses by 4,000 miles and yet you are just not there mentally? It is important that you are there mentally. So, when it comes to court, coping with stress is critical. Dress instructions, follow the dress instructions for court. And if your question is, “Can I substitute this for that? Can I wear this color instead of that because I do not want to spend the money”, let me tell you. If you want to go to more jail and spend more time in prison than you normally would be at risk, go right ahead. Why? Because people have ignored my advice on that for years. Women, I know you want to wear a pantsuit, let me help you. Wear a navy dress just like the dress instructions for court. I do not care what part of Florida you are in. You cannot go wrong with a navy dress, “Oh, it is the wrong time of year”, no. We are using psychology to help you. And it is so scuttled and it is so critical, I mean haven’t you met somebody you instantly like or somebody you instantly do not like and you do not know why? That is because you are being triggered by different cues from your five senses.

Now, we hope your nose is not involved and probably your tongue is not involved but your eyes are always certainly involved. And when you get a chance to make an impression with a prosecutor deciding on a plea offer, with the judge deciding a legal ruling or a sentence, or especially in front of a jury, that is critical. So, dress instructions for the court, consider them edged and stone. And I do not care if you spend $5,000 on Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City, or 50 bucks at a local thrift store because let’s face it. It is the south, people go through clothing pretty quickly as they are getting bigger. And you can find something that will fit you very inexpensively and regardless of what you pay. It will be the best investment you have made in a long time with your clothing because it does affect how people perceive you. What is wrong with what I am wearing for court right now? Yes, I know I have a jacket on. What else? I have a vest on, that is not fatal because if you want to have authority, quite often you put a vest with a jacket.

What is wrong is that if I am a defendant, I have a black vest. Black is the jail or prison color. Now, I can wear it on a video chatting with you and coaching you but this is not something I would wear to court. You are not going to see me going to court with my short sleeves and a vest. You are also not going to see me in a black suit. Now, since I am a lawyer, you will see me in different colors other than navy because I am the lawyer. There are reasons for that. For example, if I know a particular judge likes a certain color of a tie, amazingly, I am wearing that color tie or one similar. If I know a judge has a particular preference for, say, light grey suits, amazingly I am wearing a light grey suit. And if that judge likes charcoal grey, guess what I am wearing? Generally, it is going to be a navy suit with a red, white, and blue tie. Very patriotic, think about the area of Florida we are in, that fits. So, your dress instructions for the court must be followed exactly.

Now, let’s take a look at some other things as it relates to going to court. Number one, get there early. And do not be surprised if one of us on the legal team is not there when court starts and you are going, “What? I thought the lawyers would be there early and talk to me and give me information”. We might not have information, nothing may have changed. Let me tell you what actually happens. In the first judicial circuit alone, you have Pensacola, there is a courthouse, you have Milton, there is a courthouse. Now, there is a South County Annex that is not really used for criminal proceedings very often. You also have over in Okaloosa two courthouses, Crestview and the new courthouse in Fort Walton Beach, and in Walton County, in De Funiak Springs, you have the fifth one. So you have five different courts.

Now, here is what happens to lawyers. You have court in the De Funiak Springs and Fort Walton Beach at the same exact time. Now, most of the judges are really good about this and I cannot even think of one who is not. So, here is the procedure that we use. We call ahead and we say, “Judge B, we have court in Judge A’s court at the same time”. We are speaking to the judicial assistant like you saw me speaking initially earlier during the actual court appearance about four videos ago. Now, we contact the Judicial Assistant and we let them know, the judge then has it noted on their written copy of what is called the Docket. That is just simply a fancy way of saying the list of cases for the upcoming court date on a docket cycle, a cycle of a group of cases. And then, that way, for example, one of us might go to De Funiak Springs first because Judge Wells, although many do not like how the sentence is, has other criticisms, etc., if you are a judge, you are going to be criticized, that is just how it is, he always starts court and he says, “If you are a private lawyer and you have routine procedures such as a first-time continuance that there is not going to be an objection to, and you have court in another jurisdiction, please, line up and I will take you first”. What an active courtesy because he was in private practice. He did criminal law, he did civil law, and he gets it. Because what happens is we have to be in his court, the next court, and the next court all at the same time on the same day.

Now, why do they calendar it like this, I have no idea. They calendar it as best they can. So, the judges will make allowances for us and we will let you know if we are going to be running behind. And that is entirely normal, the judge is expected because they know every time that they set a calendar status, a pretrial, or a docket day that lawyers are going to have court on the same exact date at the same time in front of a different judge 20 to 50 miles away. I mean that is just how the legal system operates and runs. So, we are letting you know about that upfront early in the educational process so that you are not surprised and upset because we do not want you going through coping with the stress during criminal prosecution just to end up sitting in a courtroom waiting for legal counsel frustrated. So, you need to know about that upfront.

Another thing about the court, get there early because you are going to go through a security line. Now, for the love of god, please, do not bring a gun, a knife, a pocket knife, or anything like that because I go through security on a regular basis and you know what I see. I am in the security line and somebody in front of me or behind me, just after I get through, is going to walk through the security line with nail clippers, little swiss army knives, sometimes a much larger pocket knife, perhaps it is a mini mace on a keyring, you cannot bring those things. So, do not bring anything that can flag security. And when you go through security, you want to get there early so you are not backed up at the back of the line standing forever because sometimes, at the different courthouses, that line snakes outside of the building, there is no cover, and you do not want to get rained on. Yes, that has actually happened.

I have seen court dates where people are coming into court and half of the people in the courtroom are drenched because they did not bring an umbrella. So, keep the weather in mind, keep security in mind and get there early for that.

Now, another thing – when you go to court, if you are standing in front of the judge for any particular reason with your lawyer present, do not be sticking your hands in your pockets. Now, this is normal. People get nervous, men do this more than women primarily because of what they are wearing, and people tend to want to stick their hands in their pockets when they are a little bit nervous in front of the judge. Do not do that. The court security does not like it. You want to stand there with your hands down to your side with good posture. You do not see unless you are spoken to, and if you are spoken to by the judge, it is, “Yes, Sir”, or, “Yes, Ma’am”, or, “No, Sir. No, ma’am”. You want to be polite, you do not want your voice like this. You do not want your voice like this, you want your voice normal. You want a normal tone speaking voice that the judge can hear and that the judge does not have to ask you to repeat it because a record of the proceedings is being kept.

Now, we have covered the different types of multi-court security, in a number of different things. One final thing about the court. Your lawyer may have to go to another court appearance immediately afterward. So, there may be a little bit amount of time. However, generally speaking, if there is anything we need to inform you about or you have questions, we will have a few minutes to speak with you and if we do not have court in another jurisdiction on the same day, we will have longer. And again, if you have questions, just let us know beforehand.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talking to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.