A recent article in USA Today reports that judges across the United States are cracking down on inappropriate court attire. Among the bans are short-shorts, short skirts, sleeveless dresses and shirts, baggy pants, T-shirts, beachwear, pajamas and even clown suits. While it is always wise to dress appropriately for court, one would be surprised about the attire worn by some. Budweiser tee-shirts (especially in Denver DUI court) and shirts with marijuana leafs are common in the Colorado criminal justice system.
Numerous Colorado Courts already have formal and informal dress codes for jurors and litigants. The U.S. District Court for Colorado designates denim jeans, shorts, T-shirts and hats as “inappropriate.” The Englewood Municipal Court requires, among other things, shoes. Wheatridge bans sunglasses, and Westminster prohibits tank tops and halter tops.
While jurors and spectators have been the primary offenders, at least one defendant cited in the USA Today article was denied entry to the her own hearing at the Courthouse for wearing flip-flops.
While some jurors may have their own motives in dressing down (to avoid being picked for the jury), defendants should always take care in their attire. Many studies suggest that judges and juries can be swayed in their assessment of credibility by the clothing choices of the defendant. See: Judging by Appearance in the Psychology Today, see also a recent article in the LA Times.
Psychology studies aside, common sense tells us that dressing in a respectful way in the courtroom is more likely to result in respectful treatment and vice-versa. Your personal appearance is one of the few things in a courtroom you can control, so take advantage of it. And no one looks good in an orange jumpsuit.