Can it ever "not please" the court?

If my current understanding of the usual court proceedings (which are, admittedly quite beginner) is correct, from what I have noticed most lawyers will start their proceedings, or at least transition throughout their speeches with the phrase(s)

If it pleases the court, I would like to...


May it please the court to....

And while I've always wondered why this has been said, whether it is just formalities or if it actually adds anything, I've got a different question.

Is there ever a scenario where a Judge could respond with the following?

No, it does not please the court.

or something along those lines?

  • That's nothin'. In the UK, they wear wigs... – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 15 '20 at 7:52
  • I'm afraid I do not understand your comment. – global05 Sep 15 '20 at 8:11
  • This doesn't answer the question." Is there ever a scenario where a Judge could respond with the following: No, it does not please the court." was the question – global05 Sep 15 '20 at 8:25
  • If the lawyer speaks out of order, then that would not please the court (independent as to whether the lawyer uses that phrase or not). – Mark Johnson Sep 15 '20 at 9:25

Is there ever a scenario where a Judge could respond with the following?

Historically, yes (at least in England, circa 9th-12th century). Judges were directly appointed by the Monarch and so, woe betide you if what you said didn't "please" the court at the time. The sorts of judges back then would usually have been people close to or supportive of the Monarch and would enjoy a sort of rarefied air sitting in court. It would have been quite clear to everyone that you would want to treat the judge with as much respect as possible in order to enhance your chances of winning the case.

The lawyers were very much aware of the judge's superior status and were incredibly polite to them, almost obsequious. It's no different to you being on your best behaviour if you met the Queen. That said, it is primarily a generic formality these days.

In any event, yes there are still situations where the judge will say "No" to such a statement. I cannot imagine they would expressly say "No, it does not please the court" but generally anything preposterous or silly proposed by the lawyer would get that response. Something that's not in the interests of justice would also get that response.

For example:

If it pleases the court, I would like to ask that my client be released from the dock to sit next to me at the bar for the duration of trial, notwithstanding that she is here on a charge of murder

If that client is considered dangerous, the judge isn't about to say "Why yes, that's fine" as that person is in the dock (typically a secured glass box) for a reason.

  • In the later example, the judge might answer "Request denied." – Trish Sep 15 '20 at 9:08

My trial advocacy teacher (US) urges us not to start with this phrase in jury trials. He says the first 30 seconds of your opening statement is the most important time to get your story, theme, spin, etc, into the jury's mind, so say something memorable and on point.

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