It’s easy to know when to speak up in court. Attorneys do it all the time. We speak up to make objections, to make arguments that might win but might not, to build and preserve a record in case of appeal, to impress our clients and the other lawyers in the room. We also speak up to make sure the judge knows that we are not a “potted plant” and will fight for out client. These are all good reasons to speak out.
But sometimes the better role is to just shut up. When is that? Like so many things about the law, it depends. It depends on who the judge is, on your reputation with that judge, on how the other side has behaved and many other factors that are hard to enunciate or describe. Almost intuition. But there are clearly some times for the lawyer to sit down and shut up. Some of them are:
• when you have won;
• when your argument is merely frivolous;
• when whatever you say will just irritate the judge;
• when you have no good reason to object but are doing it just because the other side wants it;
• when it violates the unwritten rules of the court you practice in;
• when your argument is contradicted by settled law (unless you have a really good reason to ask the judge to overturn the settled law).