March 13, 2015
No distracting hairstyles, plunging necklines and body hugging clothing allowed in court!

Attorneys-at-Law and Solicitors who practice before the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) have been advised that if they do not dress appropriately for court, the presiding judge may refuse to hear them.

Chief Justice Dame Janice M Pereira, in Practice Note, No. 1 of 2015, dated February 13, 2015, said Counsel are expected to “demonstrate good judgment and professional taste in their court attire.”{{more}}

However some of the directives are not sitting well with some local attorneys, who say the dress code is more rigid than in the United Kingdom, unsuited for tropical climates and an attack on afrocentric hairstyles and well endowed women.

According to one attorney, who spoke with SEARCHLIGHT on the condition of anonymity, the directives are seen as colonial and antiquated in an age when the Caribbean is moving away from the Privy Council. The directive to wear dark, heavy clothing in the tropics is also being described as “oppressive”.

In the Note, which came into effect on March 1, Pereira gives guidelines to both male and female practitioners in terms of the colours which are appropriate for court; the style of their attire; jewellery and accessories; and how they are expected to be attired when appearing in open court.

“Counsel appearing before any court, are not to wear bright and distracting colours. Permissible suit colours are black, navy blue and dark grey. These colours may be solid or pin-striped….”

Female counsel have been advised that dresses must have full length sleeves and must be appropriate to a formal business attire environment.

“Inner blouses or bodices with plunging and low cut necklines are to be discreetly worn and should not be excessively revealing. Skirts should be at least knee length or not more than one inch above the knee. Where pants or trousers are worn, they are to be the traditionally tailored type. Low cut or low rise trousers are not permitted. Generally, tight fitting and body hugging clothing is not permissible.”

Male counsel should wear appropriate coloured inner shirts as part of their attire, and must wear ties for all court appearances, expect open court.

“These ties however should not contain distractingly bright colours.”

“Closed shoes must be worn by all counsel. In the case of female counsel, pumps or closed shoes should be worn; sling back shoes with closed fronts may also be worn. Open toe or peep toe shoes and sandals are not permissible.”

Jewellery and other accessories are permissible once they are “unobtrusive.”

The wearing of “extravagant designs and excessive amounts of jewellery should be avoided; eyebrow rings, nose rings and other similarly non-traditional piercings “must be unadorned” when counsel is appearing before the court.

“When counsel is robed, necklaces, broaches, bracelets and scarves must not be visible.”

As for hairstyles, they should be “professional and appropriate for court, and should not be distracting,” the note stated.

Tattoos must not be visible.

“Counsel appearing in open court are expected to be fully robed, which includes gowns, wing collars and bands and collarettes. When fully robed, counsel must wear appropriate attire above and under their gowns…

“Counsel must ensure that at all times gowns are properly fitted and not hanging loosely off the shoulder. Counsel are also not permitted to robe or disrobe in the court room while court is in session.”

If counsel is not appropriately dressed, the presiding judge may refuse to hear that person, “until and unless that counsel’s attire meets the standard of dress directed in this practice note,” the chief justice said.

The directive is applicable to counsel who practice before Magistrates Courts, the Industrial Court, High Court and Court of Appeal.