Thursday, March 24, 2011

Say Hello to My Little Friend. Your Client's Appearance Can Matter

During a recent court appearance, I noticed an impatient defendant decked out in his Sunday's finest. He had on a Scarface t-shirt which he complimented with a lovely large marijuana medallion. Considering he was there on a violent drug related charge, it was an interesting choice of attire for court. Chalk it up to human nature, but I can almost guarantee that the entire court room prejudged the guy as guilty.  For all I know, he was innocent of the charges.  Maybe he was a kindergarten teacher.  His appearance suggested otherwise.  Here's a common sense tip for any ruffians, scoundrels or ne'er-do-wells that may be reading this blog.  If you are going to appear before a judge who will try to determine if you are indeed a criminal, maybe it's a good idea not to dress up like one.  As I like to say, if you look like a pirate,  don't be surprised if people are going to assume you're a pirate.
When advising my clients on attending hearings, I always include a discussion on personal appearance and court room behavior.  I try to give them the sense that they shouldn't think of court like going to the DMV.  They should think of it as if they were going to church or temple.   I've seen many judges throw people out of court because of their inappropriate appearance.  Like it or not, there are situations where the appearance and demeanor of your client can influence the outcome of a case. 

 If your client is bellowing in the hallways, it can easily reach the ear of your particular trier of fact. When weighing the veracity of claims, would it surprise you if the judge sides with the plaintiff in her claim that your client was subject to outbursts and fits during the marriage?  Is it that far fetched to assume that the guy with the psychedelic marijuana t-shirt owned the drug paraphernalia found in the car?
Granted, it's not enough just to throw a cardigan on your client.  Of course, what really matters are the facts in your case and your ability as an attorney. Nevertheless, why make that job more difficult for yourself.  Tell you client to dress nice for court.  Leave the eye patch and parrot at home.