Monday, April 26, 2010

Dressed for the part

If you're a defendant and you show up to court wearing a T-shirt that says, simply, "BAD" then I wonder about you.

And the young lady who knew she would be standing in front of the judge pleading guilty to her felony while sporting a shirt proclaiming her to have an "apple bottom." Why? (In the latter case, it was close to perjury, just so you know.)

But day after day I see people dressed like they were . . . well, I don't know what. Am I old fashioned? A stick in the mud? A fuddy duddy? I don't expect people to show up in suits, I understand that a lot of these folks simply don't have the money for fancy duds.

But flip-flops and unwashed T-shirts?

It's to the point that when someone does show up in a suit, I am impressed. As they sit there, waiting for their case to be called, I usually check them over to make sure they're not a lawyer from another jurisdiction, parking his keister in the wrong place.

Tell me what you think. Am I unrealistic expecting people to dress up a little for court? You know, socks and shoes. A shirt with a collar.

I'll check in tomorrow with some specific examples. And if you're a lawyer, tell me some of the things you've seen.


  1. I had one client who was accused of burglarizing a store. The only evidence the prosecution offered was a videotape of someone walking out the back door of the store with the loot in his hands. The videotape was blurry and you couldn't really see the person's face. The only thing you could see was the very distinctive hoodie the person was wearing. My client showed up on the day of the preliminary hearing wearing that hoodie. Fortunately for me, I saw him before he entered the courtroom and was able to get him to take it off.

    And, yes, I too cannot understand why people do not dress better for court, no matter how strongly you encourage them to do so. One of my colleagues has suggesting asking the client to bring at least a couple of options from which you can choose.

  2. Saw a guy at PC court wearing a weed t-shirt. He was arrested for weed.

  3. This post brings the LOLs. Very strong images. I am not a lawyer so have nothing to add, other than to say I had no idea people really showed up to court like that!

  4. I was in juvie court one day when my client's mom showed up in a t-shirt that said "DO I LOOK LIKE I CARE?" Ohh, great.

    Today I was in Judge Kennedy's court with a client who wore a jacket and tie to court every day but today...because today he was headed to TDC. :-(

    As a general proposition, yes, I'm appalled by what people wear to court. In Williamson County if they don't like what you wore to court, they'll put you in WCJ orange overalls. Not sure about the constitutionality of that, but I understand the sentiment behind it.

    Whenever my client is a person who works in a uniform of any civilian variety -- plumber, auto mechanic, store salesman, surgical scrubs, and particularly if it has the employer's and employee's names emblazoned on it -- I always tell them to wear their work clothes to court whether they're working that day or not. I figure criminal court judges will always have a favorable first impression of you if they know you have a job.

  5. I've seen young women show up for court wearing short shots and tube tops so revealing the judge has sent them away to get dressed and return later in the day "with clothes on."

    At a jury trial a few weeks ago one of the jurors was wearing a dirty oversized/baggy t-shirt with NASCAR driver logos on it.

    One of my favorites was an indigent client who was trying hard to dress to please the judge. He wore a 3 pc suit...bright lime green...and no shirt under the vest!

  6. I don't get how people decide not to dress up for court; the judge has the power to throw you in jail, fine you, or place you on probation. Why wouldn't you want to make a good first impression?

    A shirt with buttons, at least!

  7. i agree that one should dress in a way that is respectful to the court. however, i recently showed up to fight a traffic ticket with my husband lawyer there to defend me. he was wearing a jacket and button down shirt, but no tie. the prosecutor, in municipal court, mind you, told my husband to wear a tie next time. a tie? for traffic court?! virtually all the other 'defendants' and most of the jurors were dressed in the most casual manner imaginable, but he was called out for not putting a tie with his jacket? give me a break....that's why we live in austin, lol

  8. I saw a defendant walk in for their setting with a shirt that had "SNITCHING" in bold letters and the red circle with a line through it. I guess whomever called law enforcement on him better watch their back.

    Saw another defendant come to court in jeans that had marijuana leaves embroidered all over them.

    Lastly there was the 18 year old defendant accused of running with a group of gang members burglarizing homes. He swore to the judge that he had no idea the others were in a gang. He was really sincere, but the big number 13 tatooed on the back of his head (not visible to the judge) told a different story. Oops.

  9. I would hardly say you are old fashioned. I too have wondered the same thing. I have witnessed a woman come into court during the winter with a pink fuzzy bath robe on as a coat and as she was sitting in court she used it as a blanket. But I guess if people don't care enough to abide by the law then why would they care enough to dress appropriately for court....

  10. Very few judges impose a strict dress code. It seems as long as the defendant is not wearing something too revealing, or too provocative then they get a pass. I've told them to dress like they're going to church. Especially for jury trials. Some don't feel comfortable in a suite and I always ask if they've worn one before. If not, I opt not to have them wear a suit because they'll look as uncomfortable as they feel.

    Client's dressing badly for court is one thing, but lawyers in this county often dress inappropriately for court. Some men wear blue jeans and a blazer with no tie. Can you at least slip on a bolo? With the exception of one district judge, Wil Flowers, I've never seen an attorney "dressed" down for not having a tie. As for the female attorneys (none at the DA's office), I understand that they can look professional without a suit and most do this very well, but Crocs and a moo moo? Seriously?!

  11. Someday wearing a tie to court will be as antiquated and pretentious as wearing a robe or a wig. Attire should be comfortable, affordable, and not an issue as long as it is clean and not provocative or distractive. In theory the courtroom dress of participants should have zero impact on finding of fact or sentencing. There is a reason that statuary of Lady Justice since the 16th century has always included a blindfold as part of her attire.


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