Monday, February 8, 2016

Is there a dress code for court?

Many types of hand-written paper signs decorate the courtrooms where I practice. Most of them include things like “No shorts, tank tops, eating, drinking, smoking, reading, gum-chewing, and use of cell phones in the courtroom.” Some include a few more-creative restrictions, like no sleeping.

No sleeping in the courtroom? Well, I've actually been guilty of that at least once, when the bailiff had to nudge me awake and send me into the hallway to borrow toothpicks to prop open my eyelids.

One Pennsylvania judge has found it necessary to remind persons in his courtroom of at least one apparently esoteric rule. 

Pajamas are not appropriate attire for district court.

“Lest you think the judge is overly gung-ho on respectability politics, he explains that this doesn’t apply if you’re just picking up paperwork or paying a fine at the courthouse, but only if you are making an appearance in front of a judge.”

And then a note from the other side –

“I don’t think it should matter,” said Michael Phillips of Catawissa Township. “If you want to wear pajama pants, wear pajama pants. It’s the person’s discretion as far as I’m concerned.”

This whole controversy strikes me as odd for several reasons, the most prominent is the fact that district court equals federal court. People are wearing pajamas in federal court? And they think that's okay?

Question: What's the difference between God and a federal judge?

Answer: God doesn't think he's a federal judge.

The judge also states it isn't an enforceable rule, more of just a reminder. 

I'm all for people taking individual responsibility for their actions.  But I'm having a hard time getting past the notion that people voluntarily wear PAJAMAS to federal court. Maybe it's because I'm an attorney, but I always thought the dress code for ANY court would be at least a shade higher than Wal-Mart.

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