Rarely do we see Filipino lawyers wearing a suit in court. I previously discussed this in an earlier article entitled The Suit vs. The Barong. In a courtroom with about twenty lawyers, there will probably be about two or three in a suit. And curiously, these two or three lawyers would most definitely be wearing black or other dark colored suits.
Certainly, a Filipino lawyer in a suit is an unusual thing. But one wearing a suit other than a dark colored one is indeed very rare. Sometimes, on very rare occasions, you can probably spot a lawyer wearing dark brown or dark blue. Light colored suits, however, are definitely uncommon. You could probably live out your entire life without having to see a lawyer wearing a light colored suit in court.
WHAT ARE LIGHT COLORED SUITS?
Before we begin our discussion on whether or not these kinds of outfits are allowed in court, let me first clarify what I mean when I say “light colored suits”. I am not talking here of light grey or light brown coats. Although these are indeed light in color, they are still generally accepted as formal wear. Hence, there is no debate that litigators may safely wear them for court hearings.
When I say, “light colored suits”, however, I give emphasis to the word “color”. Think of your color wheel chart. Think of a rainbow and the R.O.Y.G.B.I.V. spectrum. Then, think of the lightest shades you can think of.
That is what I mean when I say, “light colored suits”.
Rule 110 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that “[a] lawyer shall appear in court properly attired”. Any lawyer who violates this rule may be cited in contempt. He may be ordered to pay a fine or even be imprisoned.
But what does the term “properly attired” mean? Well, it simply means that a lawyer must dress in accordance with the normally accepted dress code. Again, however, this explanation is rather vague. What is the normally accepted dress code? And who determines whether or not a certain dress code is accepted or not?
Based on the Filipino custom, the generally accepted court attire is either a suit or the Barong Tagalog. This could still be up for debate, though. There are certain communities where different outfits can be considered as formal wear or proper attire. An example of this would be a community of cultural minorities. Can a lawyer from that cultural minority wear the outfit considered as formal wear in his tribe? That will be a question to be answered for another day. Right now, we ask whether or not Rule 110 of the Code of Professional Responsibility prohibits a lawyer from wearing a light colored suit in court.
The answer really depends on whom you ask. Some would say that, as long as you are wearing either a suit or a Barong Tagalog, no matter what color, then you are considered as “properly attired”. On the other hand, some would say that you could only wear white colored Barongs and dark colored suits for court hearings. In fact, according to an article in The Philippine Law Reviewers, “[a] lawyer may NOT wear outlandish or colorful clothing to court”.
There is, however, no specific rule or jurisprudence on the matter as of yet. All these opinions are all just that — opinions.
So what is my opinion on this? I believe that, as long as you carry yourself appropriately, you can be “properly attired” in a colored suit. In fact, I have tried several times wearing such outfits for court hearings. Most of the time, there was never even any issue regarding my clothes. Although, there was one time in Naga City when I was wearing a light green suit and the judge called my attention thereto. He told me that my outfit was meant for parties rather than for court appearances. Luckily, I was not cited in contempt but was merely given a lengthy lecture on “proper attire”.
WHAT WAS TRIED
I had proven many times that light colored suits are indeed allowed in court. In fact, I know at least two other lawyers who had likewise done so. Based on my knowledge and experience, these are the colors that have been tried and tested:
- Light Blue – I had worn my light blue suit so many times that I could no longer count. Never was my attention called on this. In fact, I had already worn this suit before a collegiate body — the Court of Tax Appeals. None of the three CTA Justices presiding over my case minded my outfit. Furthermore, two other colleagues of mine also owned suits of similar colors. And both of them had already worn these suits in court without any incident.
- Light Green – One of my first light colored suits is a light green one, which I had also worn many times in court. Usually, I got away with it. However, like I mentioned, there was an occasion in Naga City that the judge took issue on this outfit.
- Violet – A colleague of mine owns a violet suit that he had worn in court. Although he had only done so a few times, his attention had never been called on this.
WHAT I PLAN TO WEAR
There are some colors that I am planning to wear in court one day but have not yet done so.
- Bright Orange – I own an orange suit. I wore this suit when I was inducted as President of the Junior Chamber International (“JCI”) – Makati, Inc. Orange is the organization’s official color. And, during events, all the members always wore orange outfits (T-shirts, polo shirts, jerseys, shorts and neckties). I believe, however, that I am the very first (and probably the last) to wear a bright orange suit for any of the organization’s events. I am planning to wear this one for a court hearing very soon.
- Hot Pink – I have always been a fan of the color pink. I have been wearing pink shirts. I had a pink Barong back in law school. In fact, I already appeared in court wearing a pink polo shirt with a pink tie under a black suit. And I got away with it. As of now, I do not yet own a pink suit. One day soon, however, I will have one made and I will muster the courage to wear it in court.
- Bright Red – One of my favorite movies is “That Thing You Do” with Tom Hanks and Liv Tyler. In that movie, there was this band called the Wonders. I specifically remember them wearing red suits. And I loved the way they looked. I have been planning to have one made as well.
So, are light suits really allowed in court? My answer is, “It depends”. As I mentioned above, there are different opinions on this. However, inside a courtroom, there is only one opinion that matters — that of the judge. For, in his courtroom, the judge is king. Remember, he has the power to cite you in contempt just because he doesn’t like the way you look.
My advice is to get a feel of the judge. Do not wear a screaming light colored suit during your first appearance in a certain courtroom. Try to determine first if the presiding judge is cool with this and would probably allow litigants to wear these kinds of outfits in his courtroom.
However, in the end, there is really just one way to find out if you could actually pull it off. If you think the judge would be okay with it, then go in there and wear that light colored suit. If, for some reason, you happened to be wrong and the judge throws you in jail, then at least you look good and would be imprisoned in style.
All photos by Don Carlo Ybanez (Yes. I took photos of myself using a tripod and a remote clicker icon-smile-o )
Guest Model: Atty. Kenneth Tiu
My blue, green and orange suits were tailor made by Exclusively His.
Atty. Ken’s violet suit was tailor made by Edquila Tailors.