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Halloween Costumes in Court: Bad Idea or Malpractice?

By George Khoury, Esq. on October 30, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

While you may think that some lawyers dress oddly enough to look like they're actually in costume, when push comes to shove, it's probably not a good idea to show up to court in your Halloween costume. If you do, consider changing out of your costume before walking into the courtroom, as even a lawyer dressed as Thomas Jefferson is not safe from disbarment.

Unless you plan on wearing your normal work clothes as part of your Halloween costume, or your costume involves wearing a suit or attire that is actually appropriate for court, leave the costume in the office, at home, in your brief case, or maybe just underneath your suit (think Clark Kent/Superman). Particularly given the recent creepy clown controversy, the courtroom is not a place to show off your Halloween costume.

Both a Bad Idea and Malpractice

Barring a judge's order requiring you to show up to court in costume, it's both a bad idea and potentially malpractice. It's hard to take anyone seriously when they are wearing a costume and are in a brightly lit room. Face it, your costume wasn't made by a Hollywood special effects designer and therefore requires low light situations. And if courts will kick people out for wearing flip flops or shorts, there's no way a costume is a safe choice. If you get kicked out of court or lose your case while wearing a costume, your client will likely want vengeance.

Not Just Bad for Lawyers

A jury once somehow managed to get permission to wear costumes. But the appellate court was not pleased, noting that the judge's actions were regrettable as they detract from the seriousness the court demands. Although, in that case, the costumed jury did not amount to a due process violation due to the consent of counsel.

Judges and court staff should be mindful as well that wearing a costume is simply not appropriate. Court is serious. And while some judges may properly opine that being serious all the time is not good for a person's health, it is rather disrespectful to sentence a person to jail, or dismiss a case on technical grounds, while wearing a silly or scary costume.

A Florida judge was once censured for dressing up as a skeleton on Halloween on the day a death sentence was to be handed down. Notably, others in the court felt compelled to dress up as well. And while his clerk went full zombie and didn't face the judge's wrath, a juror's lack-luster effort was noted by the judge: "Just wearing a pair of round spectacles doesn't make you Harry Potter." The defense attorney noted being compelled to show up as Frankenstein due to fear of upsetting the judge (though he probably meant Frankenstein's creation and not Doctor Frankenstein).

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