Decorum for the Online Courtroom: How You Dress for Court Matters

For centuries, Judges have dressed in black robes, while Lawyers and parties to the litigation have been encouraged to dress modestly to signify credibility. In recent years, people going to court have begun dressing more casually, while maintaining a level of modesty. However, according to a recent New York Times article, as courtrooms have moved online during the COVID-19 Pandemic, dress codes have begun to go out the window.

A recent New York Times article discusses a letter that a Florida judge wrote to lawyers asking them and their clients to maintain the same level of etiquette that they would have in a real courtroom. In the judge’s letter, he shared that one male lawyer in his Zoom courtroom appeared shirtless and one female attorney appeared in bed, still under the covers. He also shared that someone in his courtroom was clearly poolside wearing a cover-up over a bathing suit.

This letter made it clear that many Judges, whether they express it or not, are judging litigants and attorneys on their appearance. The letter also made it clear that in video conferences, litigants and attorneys are also being judged on their surroundings. This may not necessarily be fair, but it’s the reality. Judges are trained to be impartial, but they are also human. It’s possible that the judge will focus strictly on the facts, but it’s also possible that he or she will see your old pajama tee shirt as a form of disrespect for the judicial process.

The dress code in the Maricopa County Superior Court is business casual. Specifically, the dress code specifies that shorts and tank tops are not appropriate, nor are uniforms (such as firefighters, military personnel, police officers, medical scrubs, etc.). Since moving online, the courts have not put out any sort of statement regarding dress code. As such, litigants and attorneys should continue to dress as though they were in the courtroom (at least from the waist up).

Dressing for court doesn’t mean you need to go over the top and put on your most expensive clothes or your nicest outfit, but you should look modest, neat and professional. Your best bet is to dress as though you were going on a job interview via video conference. This will send the message to the judge that you respect them and the court process.

In regard to your surroundings during a video conference, it’s best to be in a quiet room with good internet connection, if possible. Turn the television and your phone off and get rid of anything in the room that may be distracting. It also is helpful if your background is something neutral, like a plain wall or a bookcase. This too will send a message to the judge that you respect them and the court process.

By: Logan Matura

 

At the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C., our Arizona Family Law Attorneys Gary Frank, Hanna Amar, and Logan Matura are strong litigators and compassionate counselors. Gary Frank is a Phoenix Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience as a litigator and mediator. He has also acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, and served on the Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention Task Force. Law firm Partner, Hanna Amar is a highly-skilled Arizona Family Law Attorney with a passion for Family Law and children’s issues. She has extensive courtroom experience, and is also a certified mediator. Hanna has also acted as the President of the Young Lawyer’s Division of the Maricopa County Bar Association. Associate Attorney Logan Matura is an Arizona Family Law Attorney who received her Juris Doctor degree from New York Law School in Manhattan, NY. While in law school, she served as an intern for a Family Court judge in the Bronx, NY, and was a member of the Family Attorneys Mobilizing club. Our firm handles Family Law cases in the areas of divorce, custody (now called “Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time), relocation (move-away), division of property, spousal and child support, modification actions, enforcement actions, grandparent and step-parent and non-parent rights, as well as other matters pertaining to families and children. If you are in need of a consultation, call us today at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.   We look forward to hearing from you.

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