Appearing Before The Court - Dress Codes?
When I entered the fast-paced world of the paralegal at the Gasper Law Group approximately three months ago, I expected to learn new and fascinating things about the law and the American justice system every day. Of course, this meant that after about 6 months, I would be completely well versed in everything legal, and ready to open my own law practice by December. Sadly, it does not appear that this prophecy will be fulfilled in what I deemed an acceptable time frame.
After working for a short time in family law and now settling in the criminal division, I have discovered some crucial concepts that are often overlooked when one finds oneself in the stressful situation of appearing before the court. I thought I would share this newfound knowledge.
1. The police never think it’s as funny as you do. Sure, we’ve all pulled practical jokes, many of which have gone awry. Sure, we’ve had those moments when, despite the fact that the calendar puts our age over thirty, the suppressed high school teenage mindset takes over. While it may seem entertaining to party like a college student well into one’s adult years, the police do not generally appreciate the humor in the situation. In the end, their opinion is the one that counts.
2. Restraining Orders are not “suggestions.” Generally speaking, when a judge issues an order, he or she means it. As such, when a No Contact Order or Permanent Restraining Order is in effect, a strong desire to tell the other party something funny that Uncle Vernon said last week, or let them know about the new sprinkler system that was just installed, must be overcome.
3. Dress codes do not end after high school. Anyone who says that first impressions are meaningless is living in an alternate reality. When appearing in front of a judge for the first time, one must keep in mind that this person has the power to decide your fate. Thus, showing up like it’s a spirit day in junior high (pajama day, 80’s style day, crazy hair day, etc.) is probably not the best plan. Showing up in a sports bra and gym shorts (yes, I’ve seen it) will not demonstrate the same deference that, say, a suit and tie would. Aretha had it right – it’s all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
4. Your attorney knows more about the law than you do. It is always a bit baffling to me how many people come in telling the attorney how to handle their cases. Unfortunately, watching “Law and Order,” “The Practice,” and “Boston Legal” is not the equivalent of a law degree. In reality, the courtroom is not scripted. A small piece of advice: Hire a lawyer you feel you can trust, and then trust him.
5. Hollywood star treatment does not apply to everyone. Mel Gibson. Charlie Sheen. OJ Simpson. Wynona Ryder. I constantly hear the argument that “They got off with just a slap on the wrist… I should too!” Yes, it’s sad that there may appear to be a double standard in the way that Hollywood celebrities are treated when it comes to justice. Wrong? Probably. Still, it is important to remember that one cannot go into the courtroom ready to plead “Lindsay Lohan.” Accept it… move on.
I am certain that this only scratches the surface of the vast knowledge I will acquire. Hopefully, these helpful hints will be of some benefit to someone headed into the tangled web of the justice system.
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