is important for you to know that when
you come to court without a lawyer you take a risk. The court
cannot act on your behalf. Sometimes even simple matters can
have legal consequences that you are unaware of or do not
understand. Remember, resources may be available to you for low-cost
If you have decided to represent yourself in
court, make sure you arrive on time, and that you are prepared.
Court procedures are complicated and are traditionally handled
by lawyers. If you decide to come to court without a lawyer,
the judge who hears your case will expect you to follow court procedures and
be as prepared as you can be when you arrive at your hearing.
The staff in the Clerk’s office will be happy to help you
but they are limited in what they can and cannot do. Please
remember that the court staff must remain impartial.
They give the same information to both sides to a case.
To Do List
- Read the law that applies to your case and
become familiar with courtroom procedures. You need to be
as prepared as you can be for court, even though you are
not a lawyer. The Court will require you to follow the same
court rules and procedures that any lawyer must follow.
- Call in advance if you need special
accommodations. The clerk's office at each court
location will assist you with any arrangements that need
to be made for your court appearance related to access
to a court proceeding.
- Visit a courtroom in advance of your court date
to see how the process works. To find out the
court schedule, so you can arrange to watch a hearing in
advance, call the clerk's office in the court location
where your case is scheduled to be heard.
- Before your court date, check with the clerk to make sure you have
all the correct forms and copies you will need for your case to proceed.
You are responsible for providing copies of all of your documents to the other side in your case in advance of any court proceeding. It is always helpful to bring extra copies of your documents with you to court.
If you don't have the proper number of copies of
documents ready when your hearing begins, the judge may
have to delay the proceedings.
- Read and organize all documents. Be familiar with the documents that you
have collected. Read the documents that the other side
in your case has submitted to the court.
- Make sure the witnesses who will testify
for you are in court. Remember, in Court, you cannot tell the judge what someone else
said about the facts in your case--that is known as
"hearsay" and cannot be considered as
- Write out your questions in advance. Go over your questions with your witnesses ahead of time. This will prepare both you and them for the actual hearing.
- Create an outline or a brief summary of your side of the case. It may be helpful to prepare a brief list of your main points so you will be sure you state all that is necessary.
On Your Court Date
- Arrive on Time. It is
important that you arrive on time for your court hearing
and that you are organized and ready to proceed when the
clerk announces that the judge is ready to hear your
case. It is best to plan to arrive a few minutes in
advance of your hearing time, to allow for any
unforeseen delays and give you time to get comfortable
in the courtroom surroundings. Allow some extra time for
your court appearance. Court cases often take longer than
- Remember, courts have metal detectors and
security screening at their entrances. It may take several extra minutes to enter the courtroom. Any bags or packages that are brought
to court are subject to inspection. Weapons are not permitted. Make sure you turn
off all cellular phones and beepers.
- You should dress appropriately when going to court. People
who come to court, whether they are representing themselves, or
appearing as witnesses, or simply observing a
proceedings are expected to dress in a manner that
respects the formality and dignity of the courtroom
proceeding, the judge, the court staff and all the
parties involved in your case. Jackets, ties, or dresses
are not required, but shorts, t-shirts with
inappropriate sayings, ripped clothing, sun wear, and
similar items would not be recommended.
- Courtroom conduct. Court proceedings are recorded and it is important that everyone who is not testifying remain quiet.
There are no provisions for childcare at the courthouse.
Chewing gum in the courtroom, or reading a newspaper or
other periodicals while the judge is on the bench is not
- When you case is called, the courtroom bailiff will direct you where to sit. Bring all of your paperwork with you.
Witness should remain in their seats until they are
called by the bailiff to the witness stand to testify.
- Always refer to the judge as "Your Honor"
or "Judge." Don't interrupt the
judge, or a witness when they are speaking and don't
- Be prepared to offer a brief summary of your side of the case. You need to tell the judge exactly what you
want and why you should get it. Be brief..
- When asking your witnesses questions, always start by asking them their name and address. If their job is important to your case, ask them what their occupation is, what their educational degrees are, and how long they have been doing their job. Then ask the specific questions that will bring out the information they have about your case.
- You have the right to ask questions of witnesses from the other side after they have been questioned by the attorney representing the other side in your case.
Make a list of questions for witnesses in advance
and make sure to cover all the items on your list. The
judge will make sure that each side gets an opportunity to
tell his or her story, so don't rush through your presentation,
show respect for all witnesses, even if they have
testified against you, and remain calm.
- Be prepared to make a short final statement to the
court about the case. A judge may ask, at the close of
a case, if you have anything else to say. This is an
opportunity for you to provide a brief summary of what you
want the court to do.
The information above was
adapted from the state of Indiana's judicial