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Published: Thursday, 6/18/2009

Michigan judges can control witness' apparel


LANSING - Michigan judges can control the appearance of witnesses under a new rule adopted 5-2 yesterday by the state Supreme Court in response to a Muslim woman who refused to remove her veil while testifying.

Hamtramck District Judge Paul Paruk told Ginnnah Muhammad, 45, of Detroit that he needed to see her face to judge her truthfulness.

She kept her face covering on during the 2006 hearing. Her case was dismissed as a result.

Ms. Muhammad had gone to court to contest a $3,000 charge from a rental car company to repair a vehicle that she said thieves had broken into.

She sued the judge, saying her religious and civil rights were violated. Her lawsuit is pending in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

After Ms. Muhammad sued the judge, the Michigan Judges Association and Michigan District Judges Association got behind a statewide court rule giving judges "reasonable" control over the appearance of parties and witnesses to observe their demeanor and ensure they can be accurately identified.

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