What Should I Wear To Court?


Keep in mind that when making a Court appearance, the primary goal in terms of dress is showing respect for the Court. Ostentatious appearance can have a negative impact on a Judge or Jury when deciding your case.



To illustrate the point, once I was selected for Jury Duty and undergoing voir dire (questioning) by the Public Defender. She asked about her client’s appearance (his head was shaved and covered with Swastikas and expletives) and whether anything about it made me believe him guilty of the charge of assault. Of course, I said “yes”, and of course, I was excused for cause. Afterward I heard the jury came back guilty in less than ten minutes.



Is this a surprise to anyone? In that regard, many times I have been appalled by a litigant’s court appearance (and not just criminal defendants). Sometimes I am stunned by (in my opinion) disastrous fashion choices or, another of my favorites, completely inappropriate tattoos and piercing. I wonder if people fail to understand their appearance can affect a Court’s thinking and ultimately its decision.



For example, above the neck tattoos are considered by most observers (and let’s face it, Judges are human) as the indelible marking of a person exercising poor judgment. Maybe it’s not true in every case, but it certainly gives rise to bias on the part of most people, including Judges.



What is appropriate attire? For men, slacks and a clean shirt are most appropriate. For women, slacks or a skirt and a simple top. And, of course, avoid shorts, T-shirts and/or flip-flops when in Court. I have seen people in Court wearing very simple clothing, nothing fancy, but clearly his/her best, a showing of respect to the Court, nothing expensive or ostentatious (often wealth is the exact opposite impression you want to give in Court), but clean, simple, appropriate attire.



How we dress is one way we communicate the way we feel about our surroundings. So dress in a manner showing respect for the Court; it doesn’t take much. Keep in mind that dressing well doesn’t guarantee you’ll win, but if your appearance is inappropriate, such as the man with the tattoos, don’t be surprised if you lose.

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