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The book can be judged by its cover.

I’m convinced I was born to be a litigator, because being in court is one of my favorite aspects of the practice of law.  On any given work week, I’m usually in court Monday through Friday.  While I’m waiting on my cases to be called – I like to sit in the courtroom to observe other cases.  Mainly I do this to get a feel for how a particular judge handles different cases and to learn from the triumphs and mistakes of other lawyers.

All of this court time means that I get to see a tremendous amount of defendants in criminal cases.  It really amazes me the wardrobe decisions that some folks make on their court date.  Pajama pants, slippers, hair rollers, do-rags, sunshades, halter tops, and “Stop Snitching” t-shirts, are just a few of my favorite courtroom fashion flub-ups.

The saying goes that you can’t judge a book by its cover.  And while I believe that is certainly true, it would be foolish to assume that the lack of respect for the court demonstrated by these folks doesn’t put them at a disadvantage in their case.  I think this really comes into play during the sentencing phase.  Is the judge really supposed to believe that you are sorry for your mistake when you stand before the bench wearing a shirt with your street nickname “Konvict” airbrushed on the front?  I like to ensure that the court hears everything positive about my client prior to sentencing.  But my words can get us only so far if my client is dressed like an extra in a rap video.

One of the last things I tell all of my clients is that I want them to show up for court no less than 30 minutes early and they should be dressed appropriately.  While I would prefer a suit, for men this means at the very least a shirt, tie, and nothing in the denim category.  For women, the appropriate dress should at the very least be slacks and a decent blouse.  A case will not be won or lost based on what the defendant is wearing, but showing some respect to the court and the legal system goes a long way in securing the desired outcome.

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