I Have a Court Date…What do I do?



When you receive paperwork instructing a court date, it can be disorienting. Like a car crash, the police are involved, and there is suddenly paperwork that you need to do without any accommodations to your already busy life. At best, a court summons is a chore. And on top of it, it requires you to take off work or hire a babysitter to go see a judge! Here’s a few tips that will make the experience a little easier and a little more manageable.

Going to Court: Some Basics

While defendants aren’t required to wear suit and tie, understand that plenty of attorneys will be there in suit and tie. If you’re the type to get embarrassed by seeming “underdressed,” don’t wear sandals and shorts. Appearance is a lot of the battle and it’s best to be prepared. Also, take a look at the courthouse website a day or two before the hearing. Take advantage of the resources at the court. For instance, in Cook County, the Daley Center has a variety of childcare rooms listed here. Being prepared and looking the part helps. 

Listen, Don’t Talk 

When you do not have an attorney representing you, you are representing yourself “pro se.” “Pro se” is a Latin phrase which means “for oneself.” Not too hard to understand and often, the judges will ask you if you are “pro se.” When he or she asks, reply with short yes and no answers. The best strategy that you can take in court is to listen and observe. Often, it’s instinct to try to tell your “side of the story.” However, the court follows procedure. There is a time and place to discuss the merits of a case and often the first court date isn’t where that needs to happen. In fact, spilling your guts may give the lawyer all the missing details they needed to really clamp down on you. Further, talking too much may irritate the judge and he or she may look less favorably on your case in the future. Especially in the context of the first hearing, less is more. 

Don’t Pretend to Be a Lawyer

On a related note, it’s never a great strategy to pretend to be a lawyer. First, there are ethical concerns. The Illinois Attorney Act expressly prohibits individuals from acting like a lawyer for other people. So under no circumstances to you want to pretend to be a lawyer for a friend of family member to get them out of a jam. And while you are allowed to represent yourself, it will not reflect well if you do not have an understanding of the proper procedure. As stated, civil procedure is complex and the case law is vast, so it’s always best to find an attorney before the matter gets too deep. 

Finally, Call the Shimotake Law Firm at (312) 620-6499 for MORE!

These steps should get you through the first scary day. But note that this first day is only the first battle and NOT THE WAR! Getting a continuance or even dismissal with leave to re-file doesn’t mean that the case is gone for good. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you are scot-free from garnishments, liens or holds on your account. You need counsel and the Shimotake Law Firm is here to help. Call or text us today.