Lending some hope

Dressed for success by the Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office client closet

Trial-ready threads

Many residents who face trial don’t own or don’t have access to an outfit that would portray them in the best light.

For years, the Hennepin County Public Defender has kept a room full of suits, button-up shirts, dresses, shoes and more to best present the clients who they advise. Staff affectionately refers to the room as the client closet.

Inside, clients can find dress clothes for all shapes and sizes which they may borrow for trial and other court appearances.

“When most people are arrested, they aren’t wearing attire they would wear for an interview, let alone a jury or judge,” said Moriarty, “We all make assumptions based on our first impressions of people and what they’re wearing, so we want our clients to look good in court.”

The conversation

It’s important when working with younger clients to outline exactly what “nice clothes” means.

“You have to be really specific with a client about what you want them to wear,” Moriarty said. “They want to wear what might look good for the club, and they might look great in that outfit, but that’s not what we’re really looking for when they go into the courtroom.”

Staff who care

“We get a lot of clothes from donations from our staff,” said Moriarty. That includes a number of Moriarty’s father’s suits. Her father was a public defender in New Ulm for many years.

Over the years, public defender staff have worked to expand the selection and better coordinate with jails to best serve their clients.

“It seems like an easy thing, but it really isn’t,” said Moriarty. The jail has very strict rules about the number of clothing items an inmate can have and when those can be brought to them.”

Though the clothes are returned to the closet, the assistance doesn’t end when the trial does. The office has advisors who work to connect clients with services in the community including services that can help clients find the right outfits for job interviews.

Learn more about the Public Defender’s Office at

www.hennepinpublicdefender.org