Michael Sean Quinn*

I ran across the following as court rules somewhere not long ago.  I assume that the garment requirements governing lawyers include all of the rules governing all persons and then a few more for the lawyers representing people. 

ALL PERSONS present in the Courtroom SHALL be clean, neat and dressed in a manner that shows DIGNITY and RESPECT for the Court.

ALL SHIRTS MUST BE TUCKED INSIDE PANTS AND PANTS MUST BE PULLED UP AROUND THE WAIST. NO shorts, cut-offs, baggy pants, coats (jackets) or hats

NO muscle shirts, t-shirts, clothing indicating gang affiliation or other clothing with offensive, vulgar, racist, sexist, obscene, suggestive words, slogans, depictions or pictures, including grotesque creatures.

NO shirts that are torn, dirty and ragged are allowed.

NO provocative clothing designed, styled or worn to provoke emotion, disrupt and distract.

ATTORNEY- NO blue jeans or tennis shoes (This type of dress is not considered “Professional”)


I confess that I have never thought much about this sort of thing, and maybe my instincts are wrong, but doesn’t this strike the reader as (1) as ambiguous, (2) arbitrary to some degree, (3) anti working class, (4) any youth,  and (5) creating of free speech problems. Some of my clients are not unruly physically, but they have comical imaginations. Others of my clients are very poor and have not decent clothing. I remember what I did not have when I was a kid.  I felt ashamed, and there is no reason for a court to cause this sort of thing.  (Re (5): surely some upsetting writing on a shirt or other clothing counts as speech and should be sayable silently, even in a courtroom.)

Furthermore, I have no trouble conceiving at least one of my clients wearing an expensive shit which pictures satirical scenes of courtroom performances or satirical cartoons of fantasied judges.  Some times cartoons in the NEW YORKER are like this. Some lawyers (Ls) have some clients (Cs) that look like pigs in many respects, including having long and disorderly hair; in other words they appear to be  a complete mess. 

When I ever so politely challenged the court on this point, I was that the judge did not really my kind of client, but that he was referring to the trashy of any color. I found this disturbing. His honor might as well have said “the poor and the down-trodden.” Is it appropriate of me to wear clean jeans to this particular court room; lots of the litigants do?

Ls may have clients who wear very expensive untucked shirts of special design–or polo tennis shirts untucked. Indeed that sort of thing is very fashionable these days. Indeed, there is now a clothing manufacturer calling itself “Untuck It.” Are their customers to be excluded from the courtroom?

*Michael Sean Quinn, Ph.D, J.D., Etc.
Law Office of Michael Sean Quinn
1300 West Lynn #208
Austin, Texas 78703
(o)(c) 512-656-0503