Judges across the USA are cracking down on people who come to court wearing skimpy and sloppy clothing. They claim the effort will maintain decorum and beef up security.Judges in Delaware’s Kent County are so fed up with people coming to court dressed in inappropriate attire that they instituted a dress code, adopted after one woman showed up for court in her pajamas. Banned are saggy pants, exposed undergarments, bare feet, curlers,gang clothes, muscle shirts, tank tops, halters, bare midriffs, and hemlines more than 4 inches above the knee.
“Courts are a place where serious business is conducted, and that demands appropriate attire”, says Delaware Superior Court Judge William Witham Jr. "We’re not out to treat people as school kids, but we do expect if you come tocourt, you need to treat it with the appropriate respect and dignity it should deserve due to the occasion."
Other instances include:
· Judges in Texas have banned excessive body piercings and tattoos, unless they are covered.
· A man in Hamilton County, Ohio, received a warning from a Municipal Court Judge of potential jail time if he showed up again in inappropriate attire. He wore a T-shirt to court featuring the Chucky horror movie character and the words, “Say goodbye to the killer.”
· In May, Jennifer LaPenta was jailed briefly after a judge in Lake County, Ill., held her in contempt for wearing an offensive T-shirt to court.
· In Michigan, a man was turned away in April from the courtroom for wearing black jeans. He missed his traffic court appearance and was fined, and he’s challenging the dress code in the state Court of Appeals.
Timothy Fautsko, who advises courts on security issues for the National Center for State Courts, says the dress codes serve a purpose. "I think it maintains order in the courtroom," he says. But some people seem determined to push the fashion envelope. "I had a report of one court that had an individual keep coming into court dressed like a clown," he says. "Again, that pushes the dignity of the court."
Though some attire may seem obvious choices to ban, other clothing can be a tougher call — and barring some attire can raise troubling questions about race, religion and access to justice, legal experts say.
Fautsko says an increasing numbers of courts are adopting dress codes, and for security reasons some specify that faces be uncovered, posing problems for Muslim women wearing veils or burqas. That issue has come to the fore among judges and security personnel in the past six months, he says, adding that courts are "seeking some definitive direction on what to do, and what to do in a uniform manner, so it’s not different from court to court." Information from:Debra Cassens Weiss, Staff Writer, ABA Journal and J.L. Miller, The (Wilmington, Del.) NewsJournal and the Maricopa County Bar Association Newsletter – October 2010.
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