Go to navigation Go to content

How Should You DRESS When Going Into Court? Believe it or Not, it Matters. It Also Matters if You're Just Observing or You're a Litigant.

You like walking around in a sweatshirt and jeans.

It's comfortable.

Your jeans have holes in them.

They're torn at the bottom.

Your sweatshirt also has some early holes in them.

You've washed it hundreds of times.

It's nice and soft.

You don't mind going to a restaurant wearing your jeans and sweatshirt.

You're independent.

You don't care what others think of you.

That's good.

If you run a business, do your customers care what you wear?

If you work for a company, is this appropriate clothing to wear to work?

If you go to the synagogue or church, is this something you'd wear to a house of worship?

Let's change directions now and turn your attention to Court.

Let's say you want to see what goes on in court.

You want to see a real trial.

You want to hear real witnesses.

You want to see real attorneys present their case.

You want to hear real lawyers argue over the law.

You want to see a real judge make legal rulings.

You can go into any court house in New York and watch any trial you want.

They're open to the public.

You can watch a medical malpractice trial.

You can watch a wrongful death trial.

You can watch a car accident trial.

It doesn't cost you anything.

It's free.

You don't need ID.

You don't need anything except to walk through security.

The trial level court in New York is known as the Supreme Court of the State of New York.

Each county has a trial level court.

Nassau County.

Suffolk County.

New York County (Manhattan).

Kings County (Brooklyn).

Bronx County.

Queens County.

Then, you can walk into any courtroom and sit down.

You can listen.

You can watch.

You can stay there all day...

Well, except when they break for lunch and lock the court room.

Is there a dress code when walking into court?

As a member of the public who is there to observe, the answer is no.

However, keep in mind, when you walk into court, most of the people walking around will be in a suit and tie. 

Most of those people will be attorneys.

Carrying briefcases.

Carrying files.

If you're comfortable wearing your 'street clothes', then it's perfectly ok for you to wear them.

You'll also notice that are other people who are also wearing street clothes, like you.

If they're not members of the public observing trial, they're likely jurors sitting on different trials.

Maybe they're potential jurors waiting for jury selection to begin.

So now, you see a busy courtroom.

A courtroom where a trial is taking place.

You open the door, see people turn to stare at you and you sit down in the back of the room.

As a member of the public, don't be surprised if a court officer comes over to you when you enter the courtroom.

Nothing to worry about.

He's just going to ask you a simple question.

"Are you a witness in this case?"

There's a key reason why he'll ask that question.

If you are a witness getting ready to testify in that case, the judge doesn't want you sitting in the courtroom listening to other witnesses testtify.

Your testimony might be swayed.

If you're not a witness waiting to testify, the court officer will likely say "Ok," and walk away.

When you're sitting in the back of the court room, you'll begin to notice lots of things.

You'll notice who is on the witness stand.

You'll notice attorneys objecting to evidence.

You'll notice attorneys jumping up out of their seat to object to a question being asked.

You'll observe the jury and their body language.

You'll see the court stenographer rapidly typing away, recording everything that each person in the courtroom has said.

You'll see the court officer sitting or standing in the corner.

This is a real trial.

This is what you came for.

Nobody really cares what you're wearing.

Nobody is paying attention to you.

They're focused on the trial.

Everybody else is focused on the witness testifying.

They're focused on the attorney during cross examination.

They're focused on the judge yelling at one of the attorneys.

They're not looking at you wondering why you're wearing your street clothes.

Wear whatever you want.

Preferably, something clean, neat and respectable.

Now, let's shift your attention to what happens if you're a litigant and walk into court.

Is there a written dress code for someone who brings a lawsuit?

Again, the answer is no.

However, there is an unwritten dress code for litigants.

When you bring a lawsuit that now goes to trial, a jury of six people in the community will be evaluating your case.

They will be the ones to determine if you are more likely right than wrong.

It is the jury whom you must convince.

From the moment you walk into the courtroom until you get home each day, the jury will be judging you.

They'll be evaluating you.

Your actions.

Your mannerisms.

Your habits.

Your conduct during trial.

Your conduct sitting in the back of the courtroom.

Your behavior while testifying.

They'll be analyzing you.

They'll be looking at you.

If you give them a reason to not like you, that will work against you.

One reason they may not like you is if you are careless in the way you dress.

If you take the attitude that you'll wear what you want, regardless of what anyone says, that may work against you.

If you were to wear a grease filled tank top and ratty shorts with work boots, that would give jurors the impression that you don't respect the court and don't respect the jurors.

That unspoken disrespect can work against you and your case.

As someone who is seeking justice, you need to dress appropriately.

You need to be clean.

You need to be groomed.

You need not be dressed as if you're going to a high-society ball.

You will not be wearing a tuxedo or a long ball gown.

Instead, you will be expected to be respectfully dressed.

As if you were going to church or synagogue.

No jewelery.

No high heels.

No overwhelming perfume or cologne.

Plain.

Simple.

Neat.

Respectful.

Not Saturday night dancing clothes.

Not body hugging, see every curve party clothes.

Not button down shirts open to your belly button.

Clean. Simple. Respectful.

Once you do that, the jury can actually focus on the details of your case.

They don't have to worry about how you're dressed to determine if you're really entitled to a verdict in your favor.

When you get home from court, you can change into anything you want.

But while in court, as a litigant, everything you do is under the microscope.

Don't give the jury a reason to not like you.

To learn what happens if an attorney fails to wear what he's expected to wear in court, I invite you to watch the quick video below...

 

 

 


Gerry Oginski
NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer