Clients often wonder what they should wear to court. I usually tell them that “business casual” is acceptable, but jackets and ties are never out of place. On more than a few occasions an in-person litigant has been so well dressed that the judge assumes he/she is a lawyer. Looking around at certain lawyers’ attire, I am not sure that is a compliment!
So, we know what to wear to court, let’s talk about what not to wear…
Judges in Kent County, Delaware have instituted a formal dress code after one woman appeared in court in her pajamas. (Didn’t Michael Jackson do the same thing during his trial? Yes, but his was designer apparel!)
The list of banned clothing in Kent County includes saggy pants, bare feet, curlers, gang clothes, exposed undergarments, skirts more than four inches above the knee, muscle shirts, tank tops, halters and bare midriffs.
“USA Today” cites other examples of court attire judged to be inappropriate:
1. A woman from Detroit who wore a rumpled sweat suit that read “Hot Stuff” on her derriere;
2. A woman from Bakersfield who came to court with rubber flip-flops;
3. A judge in Texas bans people with excessive body piercings and tatoos that are not covered;
4. A man in Ohio was threatened with jail time for wearing a t-shirt with the horror character Chucky on it and the words “Say Goodbye to the Killer”.
As Mark Twain said “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence.”
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang
2 thoughts on “COURTROOM FASHION POLICE”
In 1988 I appeared as an Articled Student in Supreme Court Chambers with Madam Justice Mary Southin presiding. A nicely dressed female lawyer (wearing a suit jacket and slacks) approached the bench and introduced herself when her matter was called to be heard. As soon as she began stating what her application was for, Justice Southin interrupted and said: “I’m sorry counsel I can’t hear you.”. The lawyer began to repeat herself speaking much louder but the judge interrupted again saying: ” I’m sorry can’t hear you counsel!” The lawyer was at a loss and as she tried a third time, speaking even louder – Justice Southin said: ” No counsel it doesn’t matter how loud you speak – I cannot hear you while your are dressed in slacks – please reset your matter when you are able to dress appropriately for this court.”
I was also once in a contested matter with a self represented opposing party who loudly and obnoxiously chewed gum while he attempted to make his submissions. Justice Joyce tried politely to tell him he could not hear him while he chewed gum. The man then spoke louder – which only served to upset the judge who then stood up and said “I’m leaving the courtroom because I cannot hear you – hopefully you will figure out how to properly and respectfully address the court in my short absence – or I will not hear you when I return!” As soon as the judge left the room, the man said outloud “What’s his beef?” & about 20 lawyers sitting in the courtroom all shouted at the same time: “Spit out your gum!”