Phillips & Ingrum

How Should I Dress for Court? Seven Things to Know

By Grayson Cannon

While your attorney may have other tips and requests for your appearance when you go to court, the following are important rules that apply to many local courts and you should be aware of them when going to court. The rules listed below are in effect in Sumner County courts, but many other local jurisdictions have adopted similar rules. If there is any doubt about what you can bring or wear to court, you should ask your attorney before your hearing to make sure you are prepared.
1. Purses, backpacks or pocketbooks are not allowed in many courthouses. This includes Sumner and Rutherford County. In Sumner County, women may carry a billfold and men may carry a wallet. Diaper bags will be allowed in most counties only if the contents are necessary for an infant or small child. Davidson County will allow purses, pocketbooks and briefcases but they must be screened by security before entry and many not contain the following prohibited items: pocket knives, nail files, scissors, guns or any other weapon, mace or pepper spray, knitting needles and any other sharp or weapon-like item. Davidson County also requires that cell phones and key chains be manually inspected so they must be placed on top in the screening bin when going through security.
2. Many courts have dress codes. In all counties, the following are ground rules:
Absolutely no tank tops, halter tops or tube tops
Absolutely no shorts or sagging pants
Shirt tails must be tucked into pants
3. Be aware that many courthouses including Sumner County now prohibit cell phones from being brought into the building unless they are for use in evidence. If the phone contains evidence you plan to use in court, you must check it in with court staff before being allowed to bring it in.
4. Many courts now prohibit audio or video recording devices without prior written approval from the court.
5. Many courts also prohibit food or drinks inside the courtroom at any time, and this often includes bottled water. If you have special needs, some courts will grant special permission for these items but you will need to check with court security.
6. Large or bulky items to be used in evidence may need special permission from the court staff to be brought in. I once had a client who needed a muffler for evidence in an auto repair case in Davidson County. He had to be escorted upstairs by court security and they stayed with us until he left the building with his muffler!
7. Items such as chewing tobacco and gum may not be used inside the courthouse.Phillips-Ingrum-Headshots-15_final