Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Courtroom attire don'ts:

Deputy District Public Defender Karl Gordon once had a client, on trial for four carjackings, show up to court wearing the same sweatshirt he committed the crimes in.

Years ago, Deputy State's Attorney William Roessler watched a man argue a speeding ticket in district court while wearing a jacket with the words, "Hell On Wheels" printed on the back.

"I just wanted to ask him what he was thinking," Roessler said. "When he got up that morning and thought, 'What should I wear for my speeding ticket? Oh, I think I'll wear my 'Hell On Wheels' jacket.' "

Defense Attorney David Fischer once had a client show up to a DUI trial wearing a Bud Light T-shirt, featuring Spuds McKenzie, the iconic beer mascot of the 1980s.

"You kind of shake your head at them," Fischer said. "You want them to enter an insanity plea."

Gordon has instructed clients, who show up wearing shirts featuring 9mm handguns and marijuana leaves, to turn them inside out, at the very least.

While I generally dress casually in the office, I am very picky -- maybe more picky than other lawyers -- when it comes to what I wear in court. If I have to go to the courthouse for any reason, a coat and tie is required. Frankly, if I have to go over to the courthouse, I get uncomfortable even in a blazer/pant combination; in court, one wears a suit. Period.

Clients appearing in court want to wear clothes that show respect to the court as an institution and the judge as a person. Dressing nicely and respectfully can't hurt, and it certainly can help, when it comes to affecting the judge's opinion of you sitting in judgment of you as a litigant. On the other hand, dressing like a slob, or dressing for humor, or dressing over the top ("one couple ... after being reminded that court was a formal proceeding, came in to testify for the state wearing a tuxedo and prom gown") is not going to win you points with the judge.

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