Thursday, May 29, 2014

I Always Wear This Dress to Court

It was just a typical calendar of traffic violations, petty misdemeanor and misdemeanor arraignments.  The defendants would approach the podium, one by one.  I’d ask if they understood their rights and the charges against them.  I’d ask if they wanted time to talk with an attorney.  Then, I take their plea and set it for trial if the plea is not guilty, or impose a fine or other conditions if the plea is guilty.

The case was called.  The charge was driving after revocation.  The young woman approached the podium.  She was very well-endowed, with a slinky, silky, clingy, low-cut dress and (how shall I put this delicately?) no “visible means of support”.  Clearly, this was not “appropriate courtroom attire”.

I do not mention courtroom attire until the case before me is resolved.  I don’t want the Defendant to worry that I may be harder on them than normal, simply because I disapprove of the way they have dressed to come to court.  I want the defendant to concentrate on the matter at hand, tell me what I need to know and have their questions answered before bringing up their attire.  Thus, I waited until the plea was entered and the sentenced imposed before addressing the defendant.

“You know, Ma’am,” I said, “that dress would probably be very nice for a cocktail party or other social event, but it just isn’t appropriate to be worn in a courtroom, especially by one who is appearing before a judge on a criminal matter.”

The young lady looked most surprised when she said, “But Judge, I always wear this dress when I go to court!”

Suppressing the smile that wanted to come out, I commented, “That may be, Ma’am, but I strongly suggest you dress more conservatively if you ever find you have to go to court again.”

She mumbled something to the effect she would take my advice and headed for the door.

As she left the courtroom, I heard her boyfriend, seated in the back of the room, say, “I told you not to wear that dress!”

We proceeded with the rest of the cases on the arraignment calendar.  When we took the midmorning recess, the bailiff approached me, with a smile on his lips, and said, “Judge, I’m sure glad you didn’t tell her to dress for court like she dresses for work.  She’s an “exotic dancer” by trade!”

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Next Week:  Sentencing Departures