My Day in Court

I went to my local General District Court this morning prepared to testify as a character witness on behalf of a friend and neighbor who was assaulted by one of his relatives. I had to be there at 10:00am, but what with one thing or another — mostly innumerable traffic offenses — my neighbor’s case didn’t get heard till the afternoon, so I ended up spending most of the day there.

My neighbor’s assailant was convicted, so justice was seen to be done. The point of this post, however, is a couple of ancillary incidents that I found interesting.

When I was young my father told me that I should always wear a coat and tie when I went to court, even if it was just to be a witness or for jury duty. So I did. I looked like a sober middle-class citizen, except for the heavy boots I was forced to wear because of the sheets of ice outside.

When I entered the courthouse foyer I had to go through the checkpoint, which nowadays involves a metal detector, a briefcase check, and Covid screening. I watched the guy in front of me sign the register, have his temperature taken, and get metal-detected, after which the guard handed him a mask. So I thought, “Oh, [expletive redacted] — I’m going to have to wear a mask.” I absolutely HATE masks.

I filled out the register, had my forehead zapped with the no-touch thermometer, and cleared the metal detector. But no mask was handed to me — wonderful! I didn’t mention the oversight, and just slipped around the corner to the benches in the hall where everyone was waiting.

I found my neighbor and greeted him. He said, “Where’s your mask?” I replied, “They didn’t give me one.” Behind me, on another bench, a stranger said, “That’s because you’re an attorney.” I said, “No, I’m not an attorney!”

The guard at the desk must have overheard us, because I turned around to see her behind me, holding out a mask, as if she had forgotten it earlier. So I had to wear the [vulgar intensifier] thing after all for the five hours I was there.

From that exchange, I inferred that attorneys are exempt from the mask rule. Which must be nice. However, as a matter of interest, all the lawyers I saw were wearing masks, except for the Commonwealth Attorney and the defense counsel, who took them off when speaking to the court.

As it turned out, the assumption that I was a lawyer wasn’t a one-time anomaly. I heard it twice more during the course of the day under different circumstances. I had a coat and tie on, so I must be a lawyer. And, for a fact, I was the only one in the courtroom besides the lawyers who was dressed that way. The defendants in particular seemed to have chosen the most slovenly and appalling clothes to come to court in.

I’m not sure, but I don’t think conditions were the same fifty years ago, when I first learned my court-appearance protocol. Surely there were some non-attorneys back then who came court dressed properly? As if they respected themselves, and wanted to be respected?

Or maybe not. Maybe my memory is faulty. Maybe I’m a throwback to another time, in a galaxy far, far away…

10 thoughts on “My Day in Court

  1. You’re not alone, mein frau and adult children plead with me NOT to tuck the shirt into my belted trousers. It’s a sad state of affairs across the board.

  2. No attorney worth his/her/it salt would walk into any court room without a suit and tie thus they incur the wrath of the Judge. Even the females wear power suits in a court room.

  3. I agree with you regarding the wearing of a coat and tie.

    I used to sell men’s clothing and acquired quite a wardrobe over the years. I rarely go anywhere without at least a sport coat, and regularly wear a black suit, tie, and white shirt for my driving business. People assume I am some kind of professional and defer to me since seldom are any of my passengers so attired. It is a shame that standards have fallen so far that just wearing a suit would cause one to think the wearer was going to a wedding, funeral, or was someone very powerful or wealthy.

  4. NEVER let anyone point a digital thermometer at your forehead! It is destructive of the pineal gland. People are allowing their children to be harmed by this irresponsible and reckless practice. That is the problem when you deputize any store clerk or school teacher or door guard to do the work of a medical technician. These tools are powerful. Think, people!

  5. As a DEA agent, I testified hundreds of times. It’s usually hurry up and wait. At least we didn’t have to wear masks-just suits.

  6. Is it good news that people took you for a lawyer just by the looks?
    Ok, rural Virginia does it as long as they do not take you for an LA ambulance chaser.( I have read too many Grisham novels)

    • I don’t know if it’s good news or not. But I think that back in the day, when my father gave me his advice, a middle-class man generally wore a coat and tie when he appeared in court. Those days seem to be long gone.

      • agreed! And a hat! In my days even the teachers wore coat and tie, though often not very fancy ones, being poorly paid.
        Today, to my amazement, young teachers show up in hoodies, teeshirts and sneakers. I do not like this attire no matter where and when. And certainly not basecaps with the brim in the neck!

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