How to Dress When You Go to Court
Knowing how to dress for court is very important. Going to court is a formal occasion and the members of the bench and bar take their role seriously. Many of them chose this profession after careful reflection and years of study. There are specific rules concerning behavior, the procedure, and even what can be said. Even though these rules only apply in the courtroom, the manner in which you proceed and follow these rules greatly affects your case.
First impressions and the way in which you carry yourself are very important. Instead of wearing whatever you feel like to court, ask yourself who the judge would take most seriously. To gain the respect of the court, you should dress professionally. You should dress as if you were attending a job interview, so that you may provide the best first impression possible.
By establishing a sense of professionalism with your dress, you are also establishing credibility. Men should wear a suit and tie or a sport coat and tie. Women should wear a business suit or a conservative dress. If you do not have this type of clothing, make sure that your clothes are neat and clean.
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Dress like a professional, avoiding loud colors, costume jewelry, or anything else that is flashy and that will draw attention. Do not wear items that identify your personal association with a group, whether it be a college pin, religious jewelry or political buttons, for these items can inspire prejudice in the minds of the judge or jury. Men should be clean-shaven and should get a hair cut if needed and women should avoid loud hairstyles and keep their makeup to a minimum.
How to Act
The way that you act will help to develop your credibility, either positively or negatively. To prevent from developing negative credibility, avoid being perceived as cocky, argumentative, defensive, immature, or uninterested. Do not carry any items in your pockets that could make noise or that could distract you during court. You will be evaluated by how you act in the courtroom, so avoid negative body language such as folding your arms, crossing your legs or chewing gum. Simply sit silently and do not slouch and when speaking, do so slowly and clearly. Listen when you are being addressed so that questions do not have to be repeated and always address the judge as “your honor.”
Rude behavior is not tolerated in court, so simply be respectful and do not argue. Politeness is also a sign of professionalism, so do not get overtly excited and avoid interruptions. Patience is particularly important as well. You may have to be in the courtroom all morning and then return in the afternoon. You are free to leave the courtroom whenever you need to, but tell an officer of the court that you are leaving. Officers of the court include your attorney, or public defender, the marshal or the court clerk. If your case is called and you have not told someone you were leaving, the judge can issue a warrant for your immediate arrest.
Cell phones, laptop computers, handheld stereos, CD players and other similar items can not be used in court. Sit and wait patiently while paying attention to how other people interact with the judge. Do not read a newspaper or book while in court, for this is disrespectful. Finally and most importantly, make sure to get enough rest the night before a court date. While it is a quiet place, you should ensure that you never fall asleep in court. If you do, it is likely that you will be escorted out by the marshal and forced to come back on another date, forcing you to lose yet another day of work.
Before entering the court, you should double check your clothing and appearance as well as review reports, records, and any personal notes. Any other material that could be deemed as evidence should be reviewed to make sure it is intact and organized when bringing it into court. If you have any concerns, including those about testifying or have information that your attorney should know, it should be disclosed prior to entering the courtroom. The case should be reviewed by both you and your attorney and remember to disclose any “skeletons in your closet” to prevent your attorney from being surprised in court.
Reviewing the case prior to entering court will also help to refresh your memory. Be early when arriving to court or at the least, be on time! If you miss your case, you will have to reschedule and will end up missing another day of work, or you may be arrested for failure to appear, another misdemeanor.
Courthouses and clerks’ offices are open Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., but are closed for lunch between 1 and 2 p.m. Offices and courthouses are closed only on legal holidays which include the following days:
- New Year’s Day
- Martin Luther King Day
- Lincoln’s Birthday
- Washington’s Birthday
- Good Friday
- Memorial Day
- Independence Day
- Labor Day
- Columbus Day
- Veteran’s Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- Christmas Day