An Attorney has No Constitutional Right to Wear a Jeans and a Hat in Court

by Fred Abramson on September 25, 2009 · 2 comments

The issue of what lawyers should wear to court appears to be a hot topic. Yesterday I wrote a post about Hon. Jane Solomon’s outburst to a female attorney at a court conference. Today, The New York Law Journal reports that Civil Judge Anne Katz correctly ordered a lawyer to remove his hat in court.

Todd C. Bank, a Queens based solo practicioner, was appearing pro-se in a landlord-tenant suit.  He appeared in court in a Operation Desert Storm baseball hat and jeans.  At the beginning of oral arguments, Mr. Bank asked the court to allow him to express his First Ammendment Constitutional right to wear a hat.  The judge said no.

Mr. Bank then filed suit against the judge and his clerk, seeking declaratory relief, claiming that his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights would be violated if he was not permitted to wear a hat.  The underlying action was not resolved.

The court dismissed the case against Judge Katz.   The court ruled that the restrictions on attire were reasonable and does not discriminate against any viewpoint. 

Like Mr. Bank , I wish that I didn’t have to wear a suit to court. However, attorneys are officers of the court and should dress appropriately.   As members of the bar, the public expects lawyers to look and act professionally.  Simply put, a  baseball hat and jeans are appropriate clothes for a bbq, not a courtroom. 


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Loi-Natalie Laing September 26, 2009 at 7:50 pm

I have to agree with the judge on this one. As much as I don’t like “dressing up”, I do when I go to court. There’s a certain amount of decorum that is required in such a setting.

Marshall R. Isaacs September 30, 2009 at 1:03 pm

I worked with Todd for a few years. He was always very anti-authoritarian and also a comediean. If there was a Pariser & Vogelman yearbook, he would have been voted, “most like to be held in contempt.”

If I know Todd, though, he simply didn’t have a clean suit and made the comment jokingly, maybe even under his breath. Of course, judges are required to retire their senses of humor upon taking the oath of office.

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