Local Affiliate

Local Affiliate

TCYLA’s Clothes for the Indigent Project
By: Susan Smith

In August 2016, the Tarrant County Young Lawyers Association (TCYLA) completed its Court Clothes for the Indigent Project, which took approximately six months to implement. This project was designed to help litigants and witnesses dress properly for court by making slacks, dress shirts, suit coats, blouses, shirts, ties, belts, and other clothing available at no charge to anyone in need for court hearings.

As attorneys (especially in the family law and criminal defense context), we tend to forget that a courtroom can be an intimidating, foreign place to the general public. Laypeople may not understand the dress requirements for court or have access to clean, court-appropriate clothing. This project helps on both fronts while showing respect to our judiciary and court staff. 

This idea first came to mind through an informal closet kept by Judge Steve Owen, an IV-D family court judge (child support court) in Tarrant County. Judge Owen kept a few dress shirts, jeans, and khaki pants for litigants who appeared in court wearing shorts or inappropriate T-shirts. TCYLA ran with this idea and instituted a clothing drive with drop-off locations at the various courthouses and law firms throughout Fort Worth. The donations received were overwhelming!

We received three-piece suits, maternity clothes, and matching suits from “corner office” lawyers, junior associates, and even Second Court of Appeals justices. TCYLA then gathered up all donations, divided the clothes between family and criminal courts, and set up two central “closets”: one in the Tarrant County Family Law Center, and the other in the Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center. Pro se litigants can access the closets through a bailiff or local attorney, and attorneys can access the closets on their own for clients or other people with an observed need.     

This project has been ongoing since August 2016. Everyone has treated the suits with care and respect. Almost 100 percent of the clothing has been returned, and litigants and lawyers alike have been diligent about segregating the suits that need cleaning from those that can be reworn. 

TCYLA would love to help surrounding counties or bars implement a project like this. It is truly amazing to see the change that comes over a person when they can trade a T-shirt for something nicer. This project would not have been possible without the TYLA grant that helped construct the closets and clean the clothes.

Susan Smith is the president of the Tarrant County Young Lawyers and a partner at Gardner & Smith, PLLC in Fort Worth. She practices primarily family law.

Views and opinions expressed in eNews are those of their authors and not necessarily those of the Texas Young Lawyers Association or the State Bar of Texas.

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