In the District of Columbia, registered voters and licensed drivers are summoned for jury duty in the Superior Court every two years, almost like clockwork.
Because I am conditioned to dress up for court, I wear professional attire when I respond to the summons.
Last summer, I was really surprised to see that I, simply by virtue of wearing a jacket, was the most dressed up person in the courtroom — except for the prosecutor and defense attorney.
As you can see from the pictures, I am completely respectable in Business Casual, but I’m not that dressed-up.
Out of a pool of 100 prospective jurors, I was the only one wearing a jacket. Some of the men were wearing khakis and plaid shirts, among the women there were a few casual skirts, and then everyone else looked like they’d come for a cook-out.
Here is why we should dress up for jury duty: Jurors are called upon to render judgment — a heavy responsibility — over a very significant event in another person’s life. (This may seem obvious, but I don’t think the weight of this authority registers for most people until they find themselves sitting in the jury box.) Jurors may be asked to decide whether someone should go to prison. Litigants, whether sympathetic or unsympathetic, deserve to believe that matters of grave importance to them will be decided with dignity, respect, and sensitivity. Sweatshirts and sandals don’t convey respect or sensitivity, and while they can be worn with dignity, they generally are not. So, I gently suggest that people reporting for jury duty wear nice work-clothes or even church-clothes. And don’t worry — very few of you will actually be empaneled.
After laying down that heavy message, I must acknowledge that not all trials are equally weighty. One of my colleagues sat on a jury a few years ago that was asked to decide whether the defendant, accused of robbery, had stolen the winnings from an illegal craps game – literally, a falling out among thieves. The defense tried to impeach the victim – the night’s big winner — with evidence of his long history as a low-level gang member and government informant. Two great guys. And justice for all!
Jacket: Ann Taylor; Top: Marc by Marc Jacobs; Pants: JCrew; Shoes: French Sole New York; Bracelets: John Hardy; Watch: Michele CSX