I have made a civil complaint in my local magisterial district court and received a notice to defend from the defendant, so I will need to go to court at the end of this week. I have lost some weight due to exercise recently and my suit no longer fits comfortably (nor looks very good). I'm also not sure where my tie is. Unfortunately, the notice to defend was lost in the mail and I just found out five minutes ago that I will need to show up for court.

Is it appropriate to show up to court in slacks and a golf-T, or slacks and a button down shirt, instead of a suit? Or should I wear the suit and try to make it look as best I can? My first instinct was that magisterial courts may be more lax than county courts, but my second instinct was that magisterial judges may be more sensitive to dress due to that very presumption.

I am looking for a practical answer to this question. While I know that there likely isn't any absolutely enforced dress code, dressing too casually will surely bias the judge against me. I would like to know where the line is likely to fall for most judges.


2 Answers 2


You should definitely wear a tie with a button down dress shirt appropriate to wear a tie with (I am assuming you have male gender identity based upon your question). Slacks and a sports coat would probably be acceptable in lieu of a suit if you are pro se rather than a lawyer. Many judges expect at least a jacket and tie from men.

Another approach, if this involves your profession or business, is to wear what would would wear to work, e.g., a work uniform.

But, local custom varies considerably, and you didn't state where you are located. If you really want to be sure, go to the court on a day before your appearance date early in the morning when court opens and observe what other people are wearing for ten minutes. This will also prevent you from being late to court on the day you are set to appear because you get lost or have trouble locating a parking lot or didn't realize how long it would take to get past security.

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    This isn't an answer, but just to augment what ohwillke said: I have appeared pro se numerous times in small claims and misdemeanor criminal court in Texas. I usually wear slacks, dress shoes and jacket with a dress shirt, or no jacket, dress shirt and tie. The judges never mentioned that I don't comply with dress codes, but the better you look, the less negatively it will affect your case. I have a friend that was a JP judge once who mentioned to me that he doesn't care what someone's appearance is as long as they are clean and not sloppy - but he's probably an exception to the rule.
    – mark b
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 21:02

While dress is not a requirement in determining the law, one should be respectful of the court. Being neat and clean, dressed reasonably well, and looking as if an effort is made should be enough.

On the flip side, it depends on where you are. For example, I live in the mountains of Pennsylvania amongst the Mennonites and other farmers. Most come in from the fields or milking barns as is. Here, that is acceptable. As well, being a small community, reputation goes a long way. Being a landlord, I am in court quite a few times a year. I look like I live in the mountains! The judge knows my reputation. Of course this does not apply everywhere. However, it does reflect the culture comment well.

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