Call Today 845-371-8457

How to dress and behave in a courtroom

  • Cara
  • 12th May, 2015
  • no comments

For many people, having to go to court for jury duty is an unpleasant experience. However, for a criminal defendant, it is even worse due to the potential consequences of a possible conviction. Because courtrooms can be both intimidating and nerve racking due to their power and seriousness, many people are confused and unprepared for their day in court. As such, you should be informed on how to behave in a courtroom in order to be prepared for your court appearance.


Behavior and Manners

Courtrooms are generally kept very formal and structured by the judges and their bailiffs. This is done in order to maintain order and respect for the serious matters brought before the court. Because of this, it is important to be on your best behavior and display appropriate manners. Although it can be upsetting to be present in court for a potential criminal conviction, being rude or disrespectful will not help your case and may land you in further trouble if you anger the judge or the bailiffs. As such, make sure to be polite and use words like “please” and “thank you” when addressing any person in the courtroom.

Talking To the Judge

Although lawyers and prosecutors are typically the people who interact with a judge, in certain situations you may be required to address the judge. Because a judge holds a large amount of power, there are special rules and customs that are required when talking to a judge:


  • When talking to a judge, call the judge “Your Honor,” never “Sir” or “Ma’am”;
  • Always stand when speaking to the judge;
  • Use proper English and do not use slang or curse words;
  • Speak clearly and loud enough for the judge to hear you;
  • Only speak when spoken too; and
  • Never let your emotions get the best of you or display any signs of emotion that may hurt your case (laughing, smirking, anger, etc.);

Talking To Other People

Generally, it is a smart plan to refrain from talking to anyone else in the courthouse besides your attorney, your immediate family, or someone who has directly addressed you (judge, prosecutor, bailiff, etc.). By doing this, you help avoid any potential problems that may arise like violating court rules or disclosing potentially privileged information that could be overheard by another party and potentially used against you in your case.

How To Dress For Court

Formal dress is not required in the courtroom but it is polite to be neat and professional. If you had to come to court directly from work, it would be worth mentioning that. The judge will understand.

Always try to appear neat and clean. The courtroom is a serious place and your appearance should reflect the importance of the occasion.


  • Dress conservatively and, when appropriate, wear good quality clothing. If you own a suit, wear it. If not, your Sunday best is always a safe bet.
  • Try to wear slacks instead of shorts, and if you do decide to wear shorts, make sure they are a respectable length.
  • Avoid wearing loud colors or all black.
  • Avoid wearing flip-flops or tall high heels.
  • Do not wear tinted or dark colored glasses in the courtroom. Judges or bailiffs will ask you to remove them even if you have them on the top of your head.
  • Wear only functional jewelry (e.g., wedding ring and wrist watch). No large bracelets, chains, rings, cufflinks, tie tacks and earrings.
  • Avoid wearing items that may identify a personal association or belief. Political buttons, club pins, college rings, religious jewelry may trigger some prejudices.
  • Jerseys or other sports apparel should also be avoided. You don’t want to appear in front of a judge wearing a Yankees shirt when he or she is a diehard Mets fan!


Learning appropriate courtroom behavior or etiquette will help you to fit in and feel more comfortable.  Everything from how you dress to how you talk can impact your case. It’s important to present yourself in the way that you want the court to view you.   Following these simple instructions can go a long way towards receiving a favorable outcome.


James headshot


James Minick is the founder of Minick Law, and is the ‘Asheville DWI Guy’. He has handled hundreds of DWI cases throughout Western North Carolina. James co-authored A Cup of Coffee with 10 of the Top DUI Attorneys in the United States. The National Trial Lawyers association has named James one of its ‘Top 100 Trial Lawyers for 2014-2015’. James is a General Member of the National College for DUI Defense, and has successfully completed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s course on DUI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, a 24 hour course taught to officers trained in DWI investigations. James and his beautiful wife, Laura, have 5 children and are proud foster parents.


Comments are closed.