Know Your Local Rules: A Collection of Texas’s Finest

Know Your Local Rules-A Collection of Texas's FinestOne county’s practice is another’s taboo. One county’s fashion is another’s scandal. Local Rules tell you what each county will not tolerate. How else are you supposed to know? Here are some to keep in mind.

Gray County’s local rules prohibit lawyers from pointing “firearms, loaded or unloaded, in the direction of jurors, witnesses or any other persons in Court” during trial.[1]

In the Third Administrative Judicial Region, court rules mandate that “[n]o person shall sit in such a position in the courtroom … that may either encourage or intimidate a witness.”[2]

Calhoun County is one of several counties that enacted a local rule proclaiming that there shall be no “riffling through papers … in such a manner as may distract the jury, the Judge, or the witness.”[3]

Cameron County prohibits any showing of approval or disapproval for witness testimony by facial gesture or other nonverbal conduct.[4]

Dallas County Rules of Decorum decree, however, that no one “shall by any facial expression, nonverbal gesture, guttural utterances, or any other conduct exhibit approval or disapproval” of witness testimony.[5]

Many Texas local rules decree that all in the courtroom dress with dignity befitting or reflecting the courtroom and proceedings. Hood County demands that your attire enhance the dignity of the courtroom. To that end, the county requires male attorneys to dress in business suits or sport coats with appropriately contrasting slacks.[6] In addition, “resort wear” is not considered appropriate attire for lawyers in Hood County.[7]

Aransas County expressly forbids bare feet in the courtroom.[8]

In Brazos County, the dress code prohibits “excessively long” pants and “any shirt that allows the navel or bra to show.”[9] To reiterate, the code clarifies – “No underclothing shall be visible at any time.”[10]

Harrison County bans backless tops, spaghetti straps, tank tops, halter tops, exposed midriffs, or other tight or provocative tops.[11] In addition, the county forbids “garments showing cleavage” and “see-thru garments.”[12]

Bexar County’s local rules require lawyers to wear business attire but warn that the court may exercise judicial discretion in “extreme situations.”[13]

One section of the Smith County Local Rules merits particular attention:

(e) All officers of the court and participants shall dress appropriately for court sessions:

(1) Absolutely no shorts, capris, tank tops, or mini skirts

(2) No inappropriate T-shirts[14]

Dallas County provides a list of over 20 types of clothing lawyers cannot wear under any circumstances, including moccasins, thong sandals, topsiders, jean jackets, skorts, crop pants, sweat suits, leggings, spandex, and drawstring pants.[15]

Bowie County prohibits walking through or loitering in the courtrooms.[16]

Brown County local rules warn that counsel shall not use terms of endearment and diminutive terms.[17]

After you check your local rules, turn to O’Connor’s for comprehensive coverage of all the other rules you will need to know. O’Connor’s Texas Rules * Civil Trials has you covered. Visit our online store to order your copy.

[1] Gray Cty. Loc. R. 6.37.

[2] Third Administrative Judicial Region, Rules of Administration, Rule 9.A.9.

[3] Calhoun Cty. Loc. R. 10.13(h). This rule hits hard for the lawyers that consider the old paper riffle the finest distraction tactic in their subversive arsenal. The rule’s wording, however, suggests that all other things done in a manner as may distract the jury are still in play.

[4] Cameron Cty. Loc. R. 3.6(e). Cameron County’s specific prohibition of nonverbal disapproval can only mean that the fine tradition of verbal disapproval of testimony in open court appears intact.

[5] Dallas County, Local Rules of Decorum, Rule 4.k. When reading local rules, it is important to keep in mind that the drafters enact each extremely specific rule for a compelling reason—but one that you are unaware of. Something happened there; some event of infamous guttural uttering occurred. The rule makers could have just stated that no one shall by any conduct exhibit disapproval, which implicitly includes guttural utterances. They did not. They wanted to make their feelings about guttural utterances abundantly clear.

[6] Hood Cty. Loc. R. 1.1(c)(2). Lawyers with courthouse experience will concede that some attorneys are genetically incapable of “appropriately contrasting” (i.e., matching) coats with slacks, and any compliance with this rule would be purely coincidental for said counsel. Therefore, deciding whether to accept a case in Hood County likely demands that the attorney employ fearless honesty with himself about his fashion-based capacities and impairments.

[7] Id. Several other counties have local rules demanding that counsel refrain from wearing resort wear to court. Midland County put a stop to resort-wear-wearing counsel. E.g.Midland Cty. Loc. R. 1.1(c)(2). Likewise, Frio, Atascosa, Karnes, LaSalle, and Benson Counties adopted local rules addressing the “resort wear” question. Atascosa, Frio, Karnes, LaSalle & Wilson Counties Loc. R. 1.2.

[8] Aransas, Bee, Live Oak, McMullen & San Patricio Counties Loc. R. 8.12.

[9] Brazos Cty. Courts, Dress Code.

[10] Id.

[11] Harrison Cty., Local Rules for Family Law Matters, Loc. R. 17(4).

[12] Id. Loc. R. 17(3).

[13] Bexar Cty., Statutory County Courts at Law, Loc. R. 1.11. No other county felt the need to add in the Bexar County “extreme situation” proviso. Best believe Bexar County has dealt with extreme lawyer attire situations.

[14] Smith Cty., County Court, Loc. R. 7.1(e). One should take note of any local rule in which the drafters saw fit to underline words for emphasis. It says to the reader this is absolutely a problem here. They ran the last bunch of capri-wearing attorneys out of town—expect the same should you wear yours there. And if you’re headed to Smith County and your only clean outfits are your capri outfit and your inappropriate t-shirt outfit, opt for the inappropriate t-shirt.

[15] Dallas Cty., Local Rules of Decorum, Rule 5.d.

[16] Bowie Cty. Loc. R. 12.132(F).

[17] Brown & Mills Cty. Loc. R. 1.2(d)(17). Tread carefully if your client Mr. Little gets jammed up in Brown County.

flickr photo by Joe Gratz/ Public Domain

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