It seems like a no-brainer but I've been amazed by some of the clothing that people wear at court appearances. Recently some Judges across the country have started cracking down on inappropriate clothing in their court rooms. So if you're headed to court you'd better leave the flip-flops and jeans at home. Plus don't even think about wearing short shorts to court. Many judges across the country are cracking down on skimpy, sloppy or what they consider to be inappropriate attire in an effort to maintain decorum and a sense of order in the courtroom.
Some people seem determined to push the fashion envelope. I even heard of someone showing up to a court appearance in their PJs and they were promptly dismissed by the judge. Courts are a place where serious business is conducted, and that demands appropriate attire. It may sound like judges are out to treat people like school kids, but it's expected that if you come to court, you need to treat it with the appropriate respect and dignity it deserves.
Here's some recent examples where judges have cracked down on inappropriate clothing:
• 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 Inkster, Mich., Joseph Kassab 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.
• The same thing happened to Linda West, who missed her court date after being refused entry in June to court in Bakersfield, Calif., for wearing flip-flops.
• In July, in Hamilton County (Ohio) Municipal Court, William Morse's T-shirt featuring slasher-movie character Chucky and the words "Say goodbye to the killer" earned Morse a warning that he'd spend a day in jail if he came to court again with inappropriate attire.
The need for many courts to adopt dress codes could be the product of a casual society and general ignorance of court culture. Many dress codes single out baggy pants, particularly those that expose undergarments. 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.
An increasing number 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. Courts may follow the lead of the Transportation Security Administration and have a female officer take a Muslim woman to a private setting where she can remove her face covering.
Unfortunately, in all stratas of our society people tend to be judged by their appearance. This is not something that is limited to the court room. As a family law attorney I always advise my clients to dress appropriately for any court appearance. Like I said this may seem like a no-brainer, but many people don't consider the impression that their appearance may make on others. When working within the legal system it's important that you make a good impression and and inappropriate clothing can be a deal-breaker.