How to Speak to a Judge Without a Lawyer: Self-Represented Litigants Guide

How to Speak to a Judge Without a Lawyer. Learn effective strategies for communicating with a judge in court without legal representation.

If you are facing a legal issue and cannot afford to hire a lawyer, you may decide to represent yourself in court.

This means that you will have to speak to a judge without the assistance of a legal professional.

While this is not an easy task, it is possible to do it successfully if you follow some basic tips and guidelines.

In this article, we will explain how to speak to a judge without a lawyer and what to avoid when doing so.

An image illustration of How to speak to a Lawyer without a Judge
How to Speak to a Judge Without a Lawyer. A Guide for Self-Represented Litigants.
PHOTO Courtesy | Freepik

Before You Speak to a Judge

Before you speak to a judge, you should do some preparation and research.

Here are some steps you should take:

  • Learn about the law and the court procedures that apply to your case. You can find information online, at your local public law library, or at your court’s self-help center. You can also ask for help from a family law facilitator, a small claims legal advisor, or a pro bono lawyer if your case qualifies.
  • File the necessary documents with the court and serve them on the other party or parties. You should follow the rules and deadlines for filing and serving documents, or you may risk losing your case or having it dismissed. You can find the forms and instructions on your court’s website or at the clerk’s office.
  • Gather the evidence and witnesses that support your case. You should collect any documents, photos, videos, records, or other items that are relevant to your case. You should also identify any witnesses who can testify on your behalf and make sure they are available and willing to come to court.
  • Prepare your presentation and practice it. You should write down the main points you want to make and the questions you want to ask the other party or witnesses. You should also practice your presentation out loud, preferably in front of someone who can give you feedback. You should be clear, concise, and respectful in your speech.

How to Speak to a Judge

When you speak to a judge, you should follow some basic etiquette and rules.

Here are some dos and don’ts when speaking to a judge:

  • Do stand when the judge enters or leaves the courtroom and when you address the judge.
  • Do address the judge as “Your Honor” or “Judge (last name)”.
  • Do dress appropriately and professionally for court. Avoid wearing casual, revealing, or offensive clothing or accessories.
  • Do be polite and respectful to the judge, the court staff, the other party, and their lawyer. Do not interrupt, argue, or make personal attacks.
  • Do speak clearly and loudly enough for everyone to hear. Do not mumble, whisper, or shout.
  • Do use formal language and avoid slang, jargon, or profanity.
  • Do stick to the facts and the law that are relevant to your case. Do not make irrelevant, emotional, or false statements.
  • Do answer the judge’s questions directly and honestly. Do not evade, lie, or guess.
  • Do admit if you do not know something or if you made a mistake. Do not pretend to know something you do not or try to cover up your errors.
  • Do ask for clarification if you do not understand something the judge says or does. Do not assume or guess what the judge means or wants.
  • Do thank the judge for their time and attention at the end of your presentation.

What to Avoid When Speaking to a Judge

When speaking to a judge, there are some things you should avoid doing or saying.

Here are some examples of what not to do or say when speaking to a judge:

  • Do not contact the judge outside of court without the other party present. This is called ex parte communication and it is prohibited by judicial ethics. If you need to communicate with the judge about something related to your case, you should file a written motion with the court and serve it on the other party.
  • Do not represent yourself if you are mentally incompetent, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or facing serious criminal charges. You may jeopardize your rights and interests by doing so. You should seek legal counsel or request a public defender if you qualify.
  • Do not expect the judge to give you legal advice or help you with your case. The judge is impartial and cannot favor one party over another. The judge can only explain the court procedures and rules, but cannot tell you what to do or how to win your case.
  • Do not ignore the judge’s orders or instructions. If the judge tells you to do something or not to do something, you should comply with it. If you disobey the judge’s orders or instructions, you may face sanctions such as fines, contempt of court charges, or dismissal of your case.


Speaking to a judge without a lawyer can be challenging, but not impossible.

If you prepare well, follow the court rules and etiquette, and present your case clearly and respectfully, you may be able to achieve a favorable outcome for yourself.

However, representing yourself is not always advisable or feasible.

If you can afford it or qualify for it, you should consider hiring a lawyer or getting legal assistance from other sources.

A lawyer can help you protect your rights, understand your options, and negotiate a better deal for you.

ALSO READ: What is a Tort Lawyer? Essential Guide to Legal Experts