By Jedidiah McKeehan
A courthouse is an interesting place. There are people from all walks of life there. You see people there in dress suits, and you see people there in jumpsuits. You may be unfamiliar with the attire that is worn to court because you are someone who does not go to court very often, and that is a good thing!
One question I get asked by people who do not go to court often is what they should wear to court. Now, I am sure other attorneys have different opinions on this but let me take this opportunity to tell you what my thoughts on this are.
The first thing I tell people is, do not wear a suit. Unless you wear a suit normally, in this day and age, a suit is too formal for a court proceeding. However, if your job requires that you wear a suit every day, and that is what you feel comfortable wearing, wear a suit! Typically, the only people wearing suits in criminal court are those that are on trial for murder. I have had clients show up for their traffic tickets in suits and its just too much. It comes off as desperate. Again, this is just my opinion.
Whether you are in court as a landlord evicting someone, getting your divorce finalized, or a defendant facing a DUI charge, I encourage clients to wear business casual attire. Something that shows that they are taking the court process seriously, but nothing too over the top.
Unfortunately, there are those people, whether because of limited resources, or personal choice, that do not take the court process as seriously as they should. I have seen jerseys, mid-riff shirts, tank tops, ripped t-shirts, pajama pants, and athletic shorts worn into the courtroom. I am not sure I should even have to say it, but these are not appropriate clothes to wear to court. One time, I even saw one defendant in a criminal case wear a t-shirt saying, “Only God can judge me,” while they were having their case presented to the judge. Not exactly the greatest clothing choice for your day in court.
What you wear is also important because some judges will refuse to let people who wear shorts to enter the courtroom. They will require them to put on inmate pants to enter the courtroom, or simply refuse to hear their case and reset their case for another day. Never, ever, ever wear shorts.
To recap, when choosing what to wear to court, use common sense. Wear something that gives deference to the importance of the court proceedings, while not coming off as if you are in so much trouble and need the judge to help you out so much that you had to go out and buy a suit that you have never worn before to court.
Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties. He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.