The crack jacket and other things you should not wear to court, part 1

I always try my best to closely supervise what clients wear to court. Most of the time I’ve had months of meetings with my clients before we get close to the court date. I document in the file all the times I spend a few minutes reminding them to find something appropriate to wear. Then about two weeks out from the big day I set a special appointment in my office. I tell them to come prepared to practice their testimony “just as if you are going to court.” I tell them I want them to wear exactly what they are going to wear to court in a few days so they are comfortable on the witness stand. Wear “your best going to church clothes” I say every time.

It’s amazing how differently people interpret that one. I’ve headed off so many disasters that it’s not even funny. Well I get some laughs out of it when I tell my family what they were wearing but you know what I mean.

This is one of the biggest days of their life. A lot of money is on the line. They may even be looking at jail or prison time. You would think they would pick something decent to wear. I do the best I can but I can only work with the materials I am given. I try to tell them what the Judges think about appropriate clothing is all that matters but it rarely sinks in. I’ve even taken them to the mall to go shopping with some of the money their grandparents gave me for my legal fees.

High fashion? Maybe. But leave them at home when you go to court.

Now obviously I do this because I want to make sure they don’t show up in some stripper’s outfit or wear white socks with a black suit. I also want to spot the people who fidget in ties or fancy blouses. If they do that on the stand the Judge will think they’re nervous and that’s usually a sign of a liar. Sometimes it’s true, of course, but not always.

Occasionally I get a client showing up in clothes their family picked out for them that was cutting edge fashion back in the 80’s. Baggy MC Hammer pants are fun to look at but I send them home to change. Still other times I get people trying to wear lime green cowboy boots or Carrie Bradshaw fashion reject stuff from Sex and the City. I head off some real train wrecks, my friends.

Too often, though, they just don’t listen. Or get drunk and forget. Maybe they woke up the morning of trial and were too nervous to remember what I told them. Maybe they had some kind of stress-out moment and their epiphany about what was coming led them to the pink fluffy skirt in the attic. Who really knows why it happens. All I can say is that I have chart notes in their files about how I clearly told them to wear a decent suit or dress. I’m covered when their family who paid my legal fees calls to complain.

Still other times clients flat out refuse my advice. I’ve had dummies look me right in the eye and tell me to shut up. They know street thug fashion and I’m just a boring lawyer who doesn’t understand. It depends on your perspective, I suppose. Am I hip and ‘way cool’? I would like to think so but don’t ask my kids. I am, however, up-to-date on current court fashion trends for which I am getting paid a lot of money to waste my time telling these idiots about.

Then of course there is that large percentage of times that I first meet the client in person on the morning of their hearing. Usually it’s one of the state appointed cases where they just don’t care enough to take the bus or hitchhike in for an office meeting before court. Sometimes, though, they are busy business owners or professionals who paid me a huge amount of money so that I would worry about everything for them. They desperately want to ignore their case and they show up for the hearing as an afterthought. Lastly, and these are the ones I really dread, are the ones who are completely out of control and don’t care what I say. They decide to have some fun and wear something crazy to make an ‘anti-corporatist’ statement or to complain about how the judicial system is corrupt. Their families paid me a lot of money to put up with the nonsense but I swear some day one of them is going to completely disappear forever after their court hearing.

Court clothing problems happen so often that I’ve come up with a list of pointers to the alcohol addled and fashion blind screw-ups who can’t figure out how life really works. This is my personal all time best list of don’ts for courtroom style. These are not your minor faux pas situations. Those are bad enough but I can usually explain them away as nervousness. These clothing blunders are three alarm fires that get you sent to jail.

The crack jacket

Yes, these actually exist. You used to be able to order them online but thankfully I think the company went out of business or stopped selling them. As you can see in the pictures below, they carry the slogan “Stack Paper Say Nothing” and have images representing the stages in the process of cooking crack cocaine at home in your baby-momma’s apartment. The original crack jacket even came with the zipper pull shaped like a gun. How about that for a way to impress the Judge! A crack jacket just screams that you’re a great guy and that you really care about your community. And crack.

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Pot shirts and other stupid ideas

PotheadJudges just love it when you come walking into court wearing a shirt with a huge marijuana leaf on it and a slogan like “Pot smoker,” “I’m a pothead,” or something equally obvious. I know some states are legalizing marijuana for ‘medicinal’ use and a few are now permitting private recreational use. But Judges are 20 years behind the times. They don’t like this kind of thing. I know at least one Judge that smoked the stuff in the past and even they don’t think these shirts are funny. It’s never OK to wear this stuff to court.

I always shudder when I see some client wearing one of these. Maybe if I’m really lucky the client will also have slightly bloodshot eyes, smell weird, and laugh at stuff that’s not funny. Don’t worry if I’m describing your favorite wardrobe for going to your sentencing hearings. Cops never pick up on obvious stuff, and neither do Judges. After all, they got to their positions in life because they are much dumber than you.

Sometimes I think people just forget what they are wearing when they stagger into the courthouse. Other times, I think they don’t realize civilization doesn’t think obscene t-shirts are funny. At home they have their top five insulting t-shirts in heavy rotation because they think it’s funny to be a  jerk. They get belly laughs from their drunken neighbors and the drug addicts hanging around the trailer park so they kind of slip into thinking everyone at the courthouse will think they’re funny too.

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Hey I get that. I mean, if you’re on trial for drug crimes everyone knows you should wear a t-shirt to court advertising your warm and fuzzy feelings about cocaine. If it’s a sex abuse case regarding your step-kids you should wear a hoodie proclaiming you to be “The World’s Best Dad.” If you think about it hard enough, the possibilities are endless. Charged with drunk driving? Wear a shirt telling everyone that you are a drunk. You get the picture.

Saggy pants

How does this guy keep them on?
How does this guy keep them on?

Apparently the City of Coca in Florida has outlawed saggy pants. It’s about time somebody did something. The first offense is only $25 but it is $50 for the second and $100 for every additional offense thereafter. I suppose the money isn’t a huge deal but here in my state you only get one chance to impress the Judge. Why do you want to look like an idiot who is going to a drunken underage party as soon as you get out of court? You can try to tell me saggy pants are fashionable but I think the trend passed you by about ten years ago and now you just look stupid.

The fact is, when you wear saggy pants you are telling everyone that your highest aspirations are to be a street thug. You are saying you are a minor drug dealer to kids at the mall who cut class. Here I am trying to save you from a four month stint in the county bed and breakfast and the best you come up with is saggy pants.

There’s a little bit of a trend going on lately regarding saggy pants people getting cited for contempt of court. I’m glad Judges are starting to do it. I shudder when I see clients come walking in and ‘sagging’ as the style is called on the street. Speaking of that, do you know where the saggy pants trend came from? Supposedly it originated in prison. No surprise there I suppose. But the story goes that belts are prohibited in the slammer because they could be weapons or used for suicides. No belt means your pants sag. Wearing saggy pants on the street became a way of broadcasting to everyone that you have been to prison so you’re tough. Stay away because you are dangerous. Maybe you are, buddy, but I don’t need you showing your rear end in court when your parents are paying me a lot to deal with your legal problem.

Don’t even get me started on women who go ‘whale tagging’ with saggy pants so that they can show off their sexy underwear. There is nothing more cringe-worthy at the courthouse except maybe really old nudists.


-Samuel Owen

Update: Louisiana’s Terrebonne Parish approved a law banning ‘saggy pants’ on April 10, 2013. It makes it a violation to wear pants and skirts in public that hang “below the waist” and “expose the skin or undergarments.” Violators will be hit with a fine of $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second, and $100 plus 16 hours of public service for each subsequent offense. “Hopefully, it’ll get these young men to pull up their pants,” council member Russell Hornsby said. Hornsby also said “The problem is our young men are emulating prisoners. It sends a sign that you’re available for sex. It’s a bad example to set.”

Supposedly the City of Cocoa, Florida has repealed its ban but other cities have taken up the crusade. Shreveport, LA, banned saggy pants recently, as did Lynwood and Colinsville, Illinois. The city of Albany, Georgia made about $4,000 in fines for saggy pants in 2011 alone.

Face paint, tattoos, and Lohan’s fingernails

Face tattoos make you look cool.
Face tattoos make you look cool.

Why do people think it’s funny to be artistic on their faces? It’s like some kind of weird trend. Dangerous drug gangs get facial tattoos. Idiotic screwballs paint themselves with spray paint to be funny right before they go to court.

Let me clue you in on something. Judges don’t think it’s funny. In fact, they are the least funny people I have ever met. You are not there to amuse them and make some point about hunger in Africa or animal rights. If you were so stupid as to get bad tattoo artwork on your face you can certainly buy makeup to hide it for a few hours when you’re in court.

I suppose he thinks he being patriotic but it doesn't fool the Judge.
I suppose he thinks he being patriotic but it doesn’t fool the Judge.

Oh, and don’t even think about trying to do that thing Lindsay Lohan did with the obscene message on her fingernail. This is basically a family friendly blog so I’m only going to link to stories about it with full pictures here or here. It’s NSFW, by the way. You do what she did and you go to jail for contempt of court on top of whatever other sentence you get. Usually the contempt jail sanction is imposed consecutively. That means you are not eligible for early release, work release, treatment programs, etc. You have to serve the entire first sentence and then the second one. It’s the Judge’s way of getting in the last word.

Not very funny Lindsay. And your last movie stunk.
Not very funny Lindsay. And your last movie stunk.

Skimpy outfits

There’s a time and a place for skimpy, revealing clothes. Mostly the time is after midnight and the place is at the bars and strip clubs surrounding every city’s burned out manufacturing sector. Not at court.

Lindsay Lohan is the gift that keeps on giving. Ladies, please don't wear a skimpy dress to your sentencing hearing.
Lindsay Lohan is the gift that keeps on giving. Ladies, please don’t wear a skimpy dress to your sentencing hearing.

Ladies, you are not going to flirt your way out of a sentence. You are not even going to impress the deputies. In fact, it doesn’t even make me smile anymore to see you wearing something through the metal detectors that would barely fill a lunch bag. You don’t have to make a spectacle out of yourself to deal with something like this court case. Tone it down five or six notches and save the bar hopping outfit for your friend’s bachelorette party.

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Manpurses and skateboards

Wedding dressMen who wear trashy outfits to court are going to have to spend their entire contempt sanction in solitary confinement. It will be for their own protection.

You may be struggling with your identity or gender issues or whatever but that’s your private business. I don’t care and neither does the Judge. Court sessions are dead damn serious business in which the court addresses the facts of your case, the law, and what the legislature says the Judge can do to you. Don’t screw it up by making the Judge think you are a looney who needs some time in the slammer to learn to be an adult. I mean, why did you think it was a good idea to wear a wedding dress to your probation hearing? At least shave your back.

Don’t bring your stupid fashion accessories to court either. Skateboards have to stay home. The same goes for manpurses. I don’t care if you bought the thing from a poor but highly artistic villager in Venezuela on some church mission trip or whatever – it looks silly.

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-Samuel Owen

© Samuel Owen 2012. All rights reserved. Please read important notices and disclaimers by clicking here.



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