Rule 61 of the Barristers’ Code of Professional Conduct 1981 contains fairly strict rules as to what dress code applies in Court.
The rule is in the following express terms:
“Dress in court
61(1) The dress of barristers appearing in Court should be unobtrusive and compatible with the wearing of robes.
61(2) Suits and dresses should be of dark colour. Dresses or blouses should be longsleeved and high to the neck. Shirts and blouses should be predominantly white or of other unemphatic appearance. Collars should be white and shoes dark.
61(3) Wigs should, as far as possible, cover the hair, which should be drawn back from the face and forehead.
61(4) No conspicuous jewellery ornaments should be worn.
61(5) The silk gown is the correct gown for Queen’s Counsel.”
The Supreme Court of Bermuda issued a Practice Direction in 2008, Circular No. 8, which provided that, in the Commercial Court only, “wigs and gowns will no longer be worn“, but that “Counsel appearing in the Commercial Court should otherwise comply with Rule 61 of the Barristers’ Code of Professional Conduct 1981“.
Readers will note that there is no express reference made to Bermuda shorts, either in Rule 61 or in the Practice Direction, whether by way of prohibition or permission.
In practice, there are a number of barristers and attorneys who have attended Chambers’ hearings wearing Bermuda shorts, although different judges have, over time, expressed different views on the appropriateness of such attire. The late Chief Justice Ground, for example, is reported to have disapproved of the practice, whereas other judges have been more tolerant. But it is noteworthy that it was the late Chief Justice Ground who was responsible for issuing the 2008 Practice Direction, and he did not seek to address the issue in that Practice Direction.
It would be a very bold barrister indeed that tried to get away with wearing Bermuda shorts in an open Court hearing, or before the Court of Appeal for Bermuda.
For other recent items on Bermuda shorts and the legal profession (locally and internationally), as well as some stylistic ‘do’s and dont’s’, see: