Courtroom etiquette: Leave the ripped jeans at home

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courtroom etiquette, gavel, scales

A “Come as you are” mentality has pervaded today’s society. Mainstream media’s constant promotion of so-called inclusiveness and tolerance has caused many people to lose right-judgement and critical thinking skills. It’s a fact that clothing that might be appropriate in one setting would be highly inappropriate in another. For instance, no one would consider wearing a bikini to work in a corporate office a good idea. Before 2020 ends, many people will have cause to enter a courtroom, in which case they will want to be mindful of courtroom etiquette.

Courtroom etiquette includes clothing choices

cartoon drawing of man on witness stand

Your friends and family might consider you a fashionista in your daily life. However, if you’re headed for court, it might not be the best time to showcase your individuality or unique sense of fashion. Courtroom etiquette frowns upon any type of clothing that might cause a distraction during proceedings. The following list provides tips to help you make a good impression in court:

  • Choose clothing that is clean, neat and well-fitted.
  • Avoid clothing that is tattered, worn or sloppy-looking.
  • Plunging necklines, mini skirts and stiletto heels are definitely not good choices for court.
  • The same is true for baggy pants worn below the waistline.
  • Close-toed shoes with low or flat heels are best.
  • Neutral or darker colors make a better courtroom impression than vibrant hues or wild-looking patterns.
  • Imagine how you might dress of an important business meeting and choose a similar outfit for court.

Courtroom etiquette is especially important if you’re a parent hoping to win a child custody case or are seeking financial recovery for your losses in a personal injury or medical malpractice claim. In court, appearances matter. You’ll want to present yourself in a way that convinces the judge that you understand the seriousness of the situation and are confident in your claim. In short, you want the judge to rule in your favor and the clothing choices you make will influence his or her decision.

Be mindful of what you say and do in court as well

cartoon drawing of a male judge in court

When considering courtroom etiquette, keep in mind that a courtroom is a solemn place and is representative of the judicial branch of government. It’s not the place for you to say everything you’ve been wanting to say to your ex and definitely not a place to let your temper flare or expletives fly out of your mouth. In fact, if you do that, the judge can hold you in contempt of court. When thinking of what to do or say in court, consider these issues:

  • The judge is a person of authority who deserves respect in the courtroom.
  • Your goal is to convince the judge that he or she should rule in your favor, which is likelier if you speak and act appropriately.
  • If you appear unable to control your emotions or behavior in court, it might raise doubts in the judge’s mind about your case.
  • You don’t have to sound like a scholar when you speak in court, but you should sound confident, respectful and well-versed on the issues you are litigating.
  • Call a judge “Your Honor” or address “The Court” but never call the judge “Judge.”

Courts often have websites that address courtroom etiquette issues, such as information regarding dress codes. It pays to research this topic before heading to court, especially if you’ve never before been involved in litigation. What you wear, what you say and everything you do in a courtroom may have a significant impact on the outcome of your case.

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