Make You or Break You

Straight from the horse’s mouth! From a Judge who’s heard it all, here’s some priceless advice to help you avoid emotional turmoil, alienating family and friends, and spending unnecessary time and money litigating.


What NOT to Wear—to Court!

What NOT to Wear—to Court!

Sloppy DressersI used to tell my clients to wear their “Sunday Best” to Court, and everyone understood immediately the message I was conveying to them. However, that phrase has lost its meaning in the 21st century. Now many churches allow worshipers to wear jeans, shorts, flip flops, etc.

The Courts still do have a dress code which must be followed. When you appear in Court, your audience is the Judge (or, in some cases, the Judge and the Jury). First impressions are crucial, especially when the fate of your future and your family is hanging in the balance.

While I personally don’t care what you wear on a daily basis and don’t hold your choices against you, I do care what you wear to Court, Mediation, Depositions, and other Official Proceedings.

My job is to help you to get the best result possible in your case. Studies have shown over and over that your appearance, as “unfair” as it may seem, greatly influences how others perceive you. If you look your very best, people are much more likely to believe you and are more likely to automatically attribute certain characteristics to you, such as intelligence, success, and credibility.

It is very important that you make a good impression in Court if you want to prevail in your case.

So, to clarify what I mean when I say you need to wear your “Sunday Best” to Court, here is a handy reference guide.

Please Do NOT Wear the Following Items:

• shorts
• jeans
• tank tops
• anything SLEEVELESS (your shoulders cannot be showing)
• anything showing your midriff
• anything low-cut or showing cleavage
• athletic wear, such as jogging suits, sweat pants, etc.
• tight clothing
• pants that are falling down!
• skirts or dresses that are short—they should hit just above the knee
• flip flops (and it’s best to shy away from sandals altogether)
• tennis shoes
• “flashy” jewelry or lots of jewelry
• sunglasses
• heavy makeup
• funky hair coloring (green, bright orange, pink, blue, etc.)
• face/mouth/nose piercings

What You SHOULD WEAR to Court:

For Men:

• if you have a suit and tie, that is always preferable
• dress slacks
• blazer/sport coat (if you have one) and a tie
• a collared shirt, tucked in, with a belt
• make sure you are well-groomed
(If you have long hair, please pull it back)

For Women:

• a dress or skirt with a conservative top
• dress pants or pantsuit
• light makeup
• modest jewelry
• make sure you are well-groomed
• please do not wear anything that reveals your bra straps

Other Important Tips for Your Trip to Court

The Following Items are NOT Allowed in the Courtroom:

• chewing gum
• food
• drinks
• cell phones
• electronic devices
• recording devices (unless prior Court approval is granted)
• knives, guns, weapons
• hats & coats (please take them OFF BEFORE you step into the Courtroom)

You Will Have to Go Through Security and Have Your Bags Scanned in Order to Enter the Courthouse. They Do NOT Allow the Following Items to be Brought into the Courthouse in Shelby County, Tennessee:

• knives, guns, or weapons of any type
• phone chargers and electronic cords
• eating utensils (such as forks)
• alcohol, illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia

The above items will be confiscated and will not be returned to you.

I Always Recommend Bringing With You:

• some cash and change for the vending machines
• a notepad and pen or pencil
• a cross-word puzzle or something to read, as you might be waiting in the hallway a long time before you are called into the courtroom (although “non-legal” reading materials are technically not allowed in the courtroom)

Don’t Forget to Turn OFF Your Cell Phones, Pagers, etc. BEFORE ENTERING THE COURTROOM!

It’s REALLY embarrassing to have your phone start playing a tune in the middle of Court. Sometimes it really infuriates the Court, and it will draw unwanted attention your way.

One Friday morning I was in a packed Courtroom. As the Court’s Docket was being called, someone’s cell phone began loudly ringing. Surprisingly enough, and to the relief of everyone in the Courtroom, the Judge reached inside his robe, pulled out his phone, and answered it!

Unless you are the Judge, please remember to turn off your phone.

© 2013 Kendra Hazlett Armstrong, Attorney at Law