Public Defender “Boutique” Aids Clothes-Poor Clients

Everyone from Mark Twain to William Shakespeare to the authors of ancient Greek plays has been credited with coining the phrase “clothes make the man.” Regardless of who was first, any criminal defense lawyer will tell you that it still holds true for defendants facing trial, man or woman.

The influence of our clothes on how people perceive us is why the Dallas Public Defender’s Office has been operating a little-known but very beneficial program that allows defendants facing jury trials to shed their jail garb in favor of quality, appropriate clothing and shoes.

Housed in a small office on the fourth floor of Dallas’ criminal courts building for the past 12 years, “The Boutique” relies on donations from court staff and lawyers to maintain a continuing supply of clothes for trial defendants. There is no charge, but everything must be dry cleaned and returned under the rules established by the Public Defender’s Office.

Assistant public defender David Bulbow recently summed up the need for “The Boutique” in an interview with The Dallas Morning News: “You look at someone in a [jail] jumpsuit and the first thing you think is ‘guilty.’”

Lawyers are required to represent their clients to the best of their abilities. Protecting a client from potential prejudice based on what they wear to court is an example of how many attorneys go the extra mile to make sure that those they represent are treated fairly. Kudos to these lawyers, and here’s hoping that defense lawyers elsewhere will take notice and emulate this terrific program.

Posted: 1/11/2016 8:00:00 AM by On the Merits Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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