What to Wear in Court

A court summons, whether for reasons as mundane as jury duty or as tense as an arraignment hearing, raises many questions.  One common concern for anyone going to court is, simply put: “What should I wear?”  The answer to that question not always as simple as it should be, but here are some guidelines which may help:


Dress in a way which shows respect for the court.  One of the worst mistakes that you can make is to appear as if you do not take the proceedings seriously.  Never walk into a courtroom wearing the same outfit that you wore to the Cardinals game in Glendale.  “Business casual” dress is the minimum standard which is appropriate for any court hearing, and the specific circumstances of your case may require more.  Remember: judges and jurors are people – no matter how seriously they feel about neutrality and deciding cases on the merits of the arguments, the message that you convey to them with your appearance affects their decisions.

Avoid wearing shocking colors and gaudy accessories.  This is one lesson that Lindsay Lohan still has not learned, and it should not be a mistake that you and the embattled Hollywood star share in common.  Wearing flashy jewelry, exotic materials, and bold colors is, at best, distracting.  At worst, they may annoy conservative judges and alienate jurors.  Cases should be decided based on the facts and arguments, and it becomes much harder for fact-finders to focus on those things if the defendant is wearing diamond-encrusted gold chains and a bright yellow blazer.


Consider covering up tattoos and other body modifications.  The Arizona Supreme Court recently declared that tattoos are a protected form of speech under the First Amendment.  Unfortunately, that sentiment is still lost on many individuals – individuals who may be involved in deciding your case.  Although tattoos or exotic piercings cannot be the official basis for decisions (except in extremely rare circumstances), they may be distracting or objectionable to judges or jurors.  If a juror wastes even a few moments wondering whether it hurt when you had your labret pierced, they may not hear an important admonishment offered by your attorney.  Perhaps this paragraph will become superfluous in a few years but, in the interim, do not let your body art get in the way of justice.

Ultimately, court dress decisions are yours (and your attorney’s) to make, but to ignore the potential impact of those decisions on the outcome of your case is a significant risk.  A well-prepared attorney will consider everything that goes into your case, including the effects of your attire.  Rather than simply picking a pair of slacks, a shirt, and a tie, then hurrying off to court, ask your attorney whether their strategy includes a particular style of dress.


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