Judges adopt courtroom dress code - Odessa American: Courts

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Judges adopt courtroom dress code

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Posted: Sunday, October 7, 2012 6:00 am

Judges at the Ector County Courthouse are not happy with the way people are dressed coming into their courtrooms, including everyone from defendants to people watching in the gallery.

Judge Jim Bobo said over the summer he became so tired of inappropriate dress that he created a dress code for his courtroom.

When Bobo presented the dress code to the other judges at the courthouse, he said all of them agreed the attire worn by people in their courtrooms had become too lax.

“For the last year, people have been coming to court dressed rather shabby,” Bobo said. “The judges jumped on it right away and talked about the inappropriate dress in their courts.”

Bobo said he’s seen defendants with marijuana charges come to court with a T-shirt showing a marijuana leaf, people coming in with no undergarments on, sagging pants, dirty clothes and clothes with curse words on them.

Because the courtroom setting is formal, Bobo said it’s time to get back to dress that shows the proper deference for the occasion.

“We’re not asking for a lot,” Bobo said. “We’re asking that you come in dressed cleanly and neatly.”

Among the suggestions are polo-style shirts or collared dress shirts for men, appropriate blouses for women, and no flip-flops, Spandex or trench coats.

Each individual judge is allowed to set his or her own rules in their courtrooms from dress attire to general behavior, but Bobo said most of the judges in the courthouse requested a copy of his dress code to post in their courtrooms.

He also said the dress code would be posted in various places throughout the courthouse.

Several people who walked into the courthouse Thursday morning agreed with the new dress code, and most who entered the courthouse complied with the spirit of the code, with some minor violations.

Liliana Moreno said she thinks people should cover up and show respect when in a courtroom.

“I mean, you’re in a courthouse in front of a judge,” she said.

Roger Greeson , who was working in the courthouse with Acorn Glass Company, said people should dress more like professionals when they go into courtrooms.

“This is a courthouse, you don’t need to be dressing up like you’re going to the clubs,” Greeson said. “In general, you need to look like you care.”

Bobo said some of the responsibility also falls on the attorneys, who are able to tell their clients how to dress before they arrive.

Local defense attorney Michael McLeaish said if his clients can afford it, they are wearing suits and ties.

“Unless I forget to tell them, my clients are always well-dressed when they go to court,” McLeaish said.

Because court hearings are the only time prosecutors and judges will see his clients, McLeaish said it’s important to make a good impression and show that his clients are decent people.

Bobo said if someone is found to be outside the dress code, most judges will simply ask those involved in the court business to leave, change and come back later, but in the worst case they could be charged with contempt of court, fined $500 and put in jail for 180 days.

Those not involved in the cases will just be asked to leave the courtroom.

“I don’t think anybody wants to get there,” he said.

Instead, judges want people to be noticed of the dress code and get it right the first time.

The code still isn’t as strict as at the Midland County Courthouse, Bobo said, where dress is checked at the door to the courthouse as opposed to each individual courtroom.

Bobo said the dress code has long been implemented in juvenile court, and even since he’s implemented it in his county court he’s had to send people home to change.

However, it is still up to the discretion of each individual judge as to what is appropriate and inappropriate, and what action to take if a person is dressed inappropriately.

And some courtrooms, such as the 358th District Court, have implemented their own dress codes with a simplified version of the same principles, such as sleeveless shirts, shorts and vulgar clothing.

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