How to Behave in Front of the Administrative Law Judge

Going Before the Administrative Law Judge: How to Act, What to Wear, What to Do

Created by the 1946 Administrative Procedure Act, the position of administrative law judge is intended to ensure fairness in all administrative proceedings. As independent impartial triers of fact, ALJs may issue subpoenas, preside over preliminary motions, view briefs, and issue important decisions. They are just as deserving of respect as other types of judges. Unfortunately, those who appear in administrative court often treat it as a casual affair.

Do you plan to appear in administrative court in the near future? Your potential for a favorable outcome will be far greater if you follow these basic guidelines:

What to Wear

When you stand before an administrative law judge, your dress should be formal, but not too formal. Modesty is always preferable in a court of law. Shirts with written messages are best avoided, but if you do have written words or depictions on your shirt, they should not be obscene or intimidating in nature.

How to Behave

Treat administrative law judges with the utmost respect. This means listening intently to anything the judge has to say and keeping your cell phone out of sight. Under no circumstances should you address the administrative law judge by his or her first name. As in other courtrooms, the preferred term is “Your Honor.”‘

Timeliness is always appreciated in court. Plan to arrive early, and leave extra time in your commute to account for traffic. If the ALJ permits a brief recess, pay attention to the clock while taking a break — late returns will not look good on your part.

The respect with which you address an administrative law judge should extend to all other parties, as your behavior will be closely observed by the ALJ. Do not insult or call others names. Save all griping about your current legal woes for private conversations at home. Unruly behavior also includes using profanity and yelling in court.

For more insight into appropriate behavior in administrative court, contact Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP.

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