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July 30th, 2009

What to Wear to Court (Client Edition)


Bronx Justice Joseph Dawson went off on a rant, the Daily News reports. He was sick of people showing up in his courtroom dressed like slobs. (He’s not the only judge to do this.) The News quotes him saying to criminal defendants:

“Your client comes up in a T-shirt and sweatpants, chewing gum? This court deserves more respect than that.”

And to another:

“I’m not saying you have to wear a suit. You don’t. Just wear something appropriate.”

Now this blog gets a fair amount of hits for people looking for information on what to wear to court, as a result of this piece I did on a lawyer wearing an ascot to court. But I’ve never addressed the client version, so here goes:

It boils down to one rule, and one rule only: Wear the clothes you would wear to a house of worship. No slob clothes, no heavy jewelry, and ladies, no plunging necklines.

Lawyers and other professionals who routinely wear suits are expected to wear suits, like it or not. But many folks don’t have suits, or if they do, they own only one; the one they wear to funerals. And you shouldn’t wear the funeral suit because you will look just as comfortable as you would at a funeral.

If you are there to testify or make any kind of appearance then you want people listening to your words, not distracting jurors or the judge. Unless you want to lose, of course.

And if you are there to support a family member then you don’t want to do something that makes the jury think poorly of your family member. If you dress in the church clothes, you can’t go wrong.
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Another view: Lawyer Fashionista: Haute Bronx (Greenfield):

Judge Dawson’s expectation that defendants consider the fact that they are going to court when they select their attire in the morning hardly strikes me as much of a stretch. Even in the Bronx, consideration of the day’s events should guide one’s choices. However, when one’s Sunday Best on the Concourse is either the best they can do, or a casual reflection of a cultural distinction, perhaps it would be wise to spend less time concerned with the questionable merit of halter tops or droopy pantaloons and appreciate the fact that the defendants have appeared as required by law, turned off their cellphones so as to avoid disruption and kept their hands to their sides.

5 thoughts on “What to Wear to Court (Client Edition)

  1. This was a criminal court in the Bronx, Turk. I’ll take you to one some day so you can see the difference. Let’s say that the atmosphere is somewhat different than what you’re used to.
    # posted by Anonymous shg : July 30, 2009 5:51 PM

  2. Amen, brutha! [especially on the “NO plunging neck lines!”
    “Respect” should be the guiding principle.
    # posted by Blogger Dana : July 30, 2009 6:12 PM

  3. I would think that, with civil liberties at stake, it would be even more important to dress appropriately. I’m not talking about the day of arrest, of course, but I’d bet money you’ve read the riot act to all of your clients about how to dress appropriately when the time comes.
    # posted by Blogger Eric Turkewitz : July 31, 2009 9:48 AM

  4. I recall a Bronx jury in a personal injury case that I was trying about 10 years ago, all showing up for the first day of testimony, dressed as if they were going to church/synagogue. The case settled that day and the foreman told me they wanted to show proper respect for the occasion. That was real class, never saw that before or since.

    Michael K. Eidman
    New York, NY

  5. I recall a Bronx jury in a personal injury case that I was trying about 10 years ago, all showing up for the first day of testimony, dressed as if they were going to church/synagogue. The case settled that day and the foreman told me they wanted to show proper respect for the occasion. That was real class, never saw that before or since.

    Like an old time movie.