Not unlike the Hallelujah Chorus, there seems to be some societal confusion on whether or not you stand when a judge enters the courtroom. While some localities have specific rules on courtroom conduct, including standing when a judge enters, others do not. However it’s customary to stand.

Why? Well, in 1215, the Magna Carta provided for two courts in England: the Court of Common Pleas (only located in one place, Westminster Hall), and the Queen’s (King’s when there’s a king) Bench (multiple locations, the sun never sets). Why might one stand in Westminster Hall? It’s in the Palace of Westminster! And before the Queen’s (King’s) Bench? You’re before the Lord Chief Justice! Stand, or be beheaded.

Important English people aside…

…at the federal level, the Federal Judicial Center recommends that you stand when a judge enters the courtroom. However, federal courts follow the local rules of the jurisdiction in which they sit in when it comes to courtroom conduct for attorneys, parties, juries and members of the public. There are codes of conduct for judges and court employees, but no one else.

Then again, at the U.S. Supreme Court, one is expected to stand.

“When the Court is in session, the 10 a.m. entrance of the Justices into the Courtroom is announced by the Marshal. Those present, at the sound of the gavel, arise and remain standing until the robed Justices are seated following the traditional chant: ‘The Honorable, the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court!'”

Oyez, indeed.

Unless you’re bound by a specific rule, it’s really up to you. I personally think you’ll look like a fool, seated when the judge walks in. However, if you’re trying to make a statement, make sure you’re sitting in opposition to the rules so that the bailiff, or someone, cares. Awk-ward.