Rules of Courtroom Conduct and Behavior in Georgia
Whether you are attending court for a simple traffic ticket or a complicated case such as medical malpractice, it is important to dress appropriately. Courtrooms are formal, and the judges are very strict about attire. The last thing you want to do is be kicked out of a courtroom or your court appearance postponed due to your clothes. Your presentation tells the judge a lot about you, and sometimes these small cues can make the difference in your case. You should select clothing that shows the judge, lawyers, and clerks that you care about the laws and your rights. While it is not required that you wear the most expensive clothes, an effort to look presentable will go a long way with a judge. We have seen judges make life-changing decisions for people based at least in part upon the way the party dressed and conducted themselves. Whether or not this is right is irrelevant.
In addition to attire, how you compose yourself is critical. Learning the formalities to use is important. From how you are dressed to how you approach the judge to how you interact with others involved with the hearing, everything matters. Your behavior in court in Georgia will have an impact on your case. Make sure it is leaving the best impression.
Court Attire in Georgia
The way you dress for court should exude respect and dignity. What to wear to court in Georgia is a very commonly asked question. Your appearance says a lot about you and an effort to look professional will go a long way with the judge. We are under the belief that anything you can do to help your case should be done. A simple thing like dressing appropriately could put you in a favorable state of mind with the judge. You have nothing to lose with dressing appropriately but a lot to lose if the judge makes you return to court for your attire.
For men, the main issue we see with court conduct in Georgia is not dressing up enough. We frequently observe men come to court in jeans and a t-shirt. You are not doing yourself any favors by showing up in regular clothes. As stated before, you want to put your best foot forward, and your appearance is the first thing the judges will notice. Suits are acceptable for men but not required. If you wear a suit, you should also wear a tie. Business casual attire such as slacks and a dress shirt or solid polo are appropriate. Collared shirts are advised. Try to avoid shirts with wording on them or images such as skulls. Tucking your shirt in and wearing a belt are also encouraged. We have seen many men have to leave the courtroom for not tucking in their shirt or wearing their pants too loose.
For women, the best advice is to dress modestly. Avoid bright colors and clothes with writing or images on them. Short skirts, low-cut shirts, or super tight clothes are not advised when going to court. Some courthouses will not let you enter the courtroom if your clothes are too tight or short. Suits are also fine for women, but business casual is appropriate as well. If you choose to wear a dress, it should not be evening style dresses or one that is too short. Try to avoid high slits and dresses that are too tight. It is a good idea to keep hair, jewelry, and makeup conservative and to a minimum. This is not the time for large earrings, bracelets, or eccentric hairstyles. Your jewelry should not make noise. In regards to shoes, open-toed shoes are not acceptable as well as sandals, flip-flips, etc.
In sum, men should either wear a suit with a tie, sport coat, or a long sleeve button down shirt with slacks. Men should wear a belt. Women should wear a conservative business suit or dress or business casual slacks with a conservative top. Accessories should be kept to a minimum and clothes should not be too tight. It is not required to wear the most expensive clothes. The judge will greatly appreciate an effort to be modest yet presentable.
Numerous cities and counties throughout Georgia have published their own rules on their website for court conduct in Georgia. Common unaccepted clothing includes but is not limited to:
- Ripped or torn jeans
- Baggy pants that fall below the waist
- Tank tops and muscle shirts
- Hair curlers or hats
- Bare feet
- Clothing that depicts violence, sexual acts, profanity or illegal drugs
- Clothing with emblems that condone inappropriate or unlawful behavior
Georgia is not alone in these rules concerning courtroom conduct and behavior. Various other states have published similar guidelines for their courtrooms.
Georgia Courtroom Conduct and Behavior
While your attire says one thing about you, your behavior in court in Georgia says another. You want to make sure your actions match your professional attire. It is very important is to be exceedingly polite when speaking to any person in court, and especially formal when speaking to the judge. This includes the court clerk and any other staff you come into contact with. They all have access to the judge and will let them know if you were disrespectful to them. Address the judge as “your honor.” Do not address the judge as “judge.”
It is very important not to interrupt anyone during your court appearance. You will have the opportunity to provide your side of the story. If the judge has to reprimand you for any reason, apologize to the judge and then the other party.
A small but significant detail is to make appropriate eye contact. Always look a person in the eye when they are speaking with you but do not stare a hole into their head. Try to avoid looking at the floor, ceiling, or all around. Pay attention to what is going on.
If there is something you would like to tell the judge but do not want the other side to hear, you can ask to approach the bench. Do not approach the bench without asking first.
Some general rules to help put your best foot forward include:
- Be on time
- Be prepared and organized
- Stand up when the judge enters and leaves the courtroom and do not sit until instructed
- Leave all food and drinks in your vehicle
- Stand when speaking to the judge
- Leave cell phones in the car. If you bring your cell phone, turn it off
- Stand up straight
- Answer questions in a loud, clear voice
- Thank the judge for their attention when done
These are all important courtroom behaviors in Georgia. Adhering to these guidelines are an easy way to gain approval from the judge.
Frequently Asked Questions about Court Conduct and Behavior in Georgia
What should I wear to court?
The way you dress is the court's first impression of you. You want to dress respectfully and demonstrate to the court that you understand this is a serious matter and you are taking it seriously. While it may sound cliche- dress for success.
Do I have to wear a tie to court?
If you decide to wear a suit, it is best to wear a tie with it. Please keep ties simple. Colorful ties or ones with lots of decorations on them should be avoided. Solid colors or ones with basic stripes are best. It is also acceptable to wear slacks and a long sleeve shirt (preferably white in color) with a tie.
Are jeans appropriate to wear to court?
Jeans are not court appropriate. While you do not have to wear a suit, dress slacks are recommended. However, if you do not own a suit or business casual clothes and do not have the means to buy something to wear, then you can wear jeans. Dark jeans are preferred, and we recommend wearing a belt. Ripped or torn jeans are not appropriate for court.
Are suits required for a court appearance?
While suits are not required, we do recommend wearing a suit. For men, it is best to wear a tie with your suit. If you do not own a suit, business casual clothes are advised. Slacks and a button up shirt with a collar will be appropriate.
Can I wear sneakers to court?
You should not wear sneakers to court. Dress shoes are advised and shoes should be clean.
Can I wear a halter top or tank top?
No, most courthouses do not allow tank tops for women or muscle tees for men.
What happens if I do not dress appropriately for court?
If you are not dressed appropriately, you will not be able to go into the courtroom, and you will miss your court date. This will delay your hearing and require you to appear in court more than once.
What am I prohibited from bringing into the building?
All courthouses prohibit weapons from being brought onto the premises. Hats, sunglasses, and baggy pants that fall below the waist are also not allowed. Some courthouses such as Walton County do not even permit cell phones in the courthouse. Security will ask you to put them in your car.
May my children attend court?
Yes, but because of the formality of court, it is not recommended for infants or small children. Children must not create a disturbance, or you may be asked to leave the courtroom. If there are unforeseen circumstances that require your child to accompany you to court, please notify the court in advance.
Can I bring food or drinks into the courtroom?
No. Please avoid chewing gum, bringing food, or bringing drinks in. You will be asked to get rid of these items if you choose to bring them.
Can I use my cell phone for work or emergencies during court?
No. The court does not distinguish between casual phone usage and for work. Cell phone use is not permitted in the courtroom. Some courthouses do not even allow people to bring their phones inside and make people leave them in the car.
What happens if I am unable to make my court date?
If you do not have an attorney, you need to contact the court clerk at least 48 hours before your hearing. However, a judge may still make a ruling in your case without you being present. If you have an attorney, they will work with the court to reschedule your hearing.
How do I find out the dress code for my court appearance?
Most courts have a dress code posted on their website. We advise you to check it out before arriving at the courthouse.
Is work out attire appropriate for court?
No. Jogging suits, warm-up pants, or active tops are not appropriate for court. Spandex is also not allowed. This is a formal appearance, and your clothing should be professional, clean, neat, and well-fitted.
Do I have to tuck in my shirt?
We recommend that men tuck their shirts into their pants and women tuck their blouses or shirts in as well.
Can I wear earrings to court?
You may wear earrings to court but limit them to one per ear. They should be kept to a minimum and not draw attention. This is not the time for large, flashy earrings. Keeping it simple is best. Furthermore, no other piercings are allowed.
Can I wear jewelry to court?
Less is more when wearing jewelry to court. Make sure it is not noisy and does not draw unnecessary attention.
What types of shoes are appropriate for court?
Closed toe, conservative shoes are best. Make sure they are clean. Flip-flops, sandals, or other open-toed shoes are not allowed. Also, avoid wearing athletic shoes.
Is it okay if I have tattoos?
It is best to try and hide any tattoos. If you have one on your neck, wear a collared shirt (which is what we recommend anyways). If you have them on your arms, wear long sleeves.
What color should I wear to court?
We recommend wearing either dark grey or navy blue clothing. Try to avoid tan, blue, green, and red as these options do not give off the right vibe that you want. For men wearing a dress shirt under their suit, stick to white or blue.
Failing to dress appropriately and using proper etiquette may determine how the judge sees you. Even though this may seem unfair, your appearance and conduct in court in Georgia may determine the outcome of your case. Our attorneys can help you prepare for court in every possible way. We can give you advice on what to wear and how to conduct yourself. If you have any questions about court conduct or behavior in Georgia, contact our offices today.