Monday, Oct 22, 2018
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That’s what you’re wearing?


Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Linda Jennings has set a modest dress code for those appearing in her courtroom.

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Going to court is serious business.

The days of powdered wigs may be behind us, but courtrooms are still far from casual environments. And that is what leads at least one Lucas County judge to warn the public, defendants, and witnesses each summer that she will not tolerate inappropriate dress or behavior in her courtroom.

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Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Linda Jennings posts a sign at the beginning of each summer when warmer weather may tempt people to dress too casually. The judge does not want to see anyone wearing shorts or tank tops. She does not want to see any bare midriffs.

It is astonishing that these guidelines need to be spelled out.

But since they do, good for Judge Jennings.

At the Lucas County courthouse — and at countless others, no doubt — deputies on security duty are authorized to ask people who are dressed inappropriately to stay in the hallway. Defendants who show up wearing casual attire are warned not to do so a second time. That is actually a pretty accommodating response to people who cannot figure out how to dress like adults for one of the most responsible, adult circumstances: court.

Regardless of why anyone is there — as a defendant, witness, lawyer, or even spectator — one dresses appropriately for court to demonstrate respect for the justice system, and for one’s judge.

Serious events happen in courtrooms. People’s lives are substantially altered by the decisions made there. People are sent to prison, victims of crimes are made whole, families are both united and broken apart.

This should be a solemn and serious atmosphere. It is not, as another judge sometimes points out, a trip to the gym.

In fact, Lucas County judges seem pretty lenient in terms of defining what is appropriate courtroom attire. One might expect a business formal dress code — suits and ties, dresses and high heels.

At the very least you might expect to have to dress as well as you do for church and wear a collared shirt. But Judge Dean Mandros sets the bar at long sleeves and jeans, rather than shorts. That is hardly asking much.

If you are headed to a courtroom, check a mirror and ask yourself, “Do I look like I am headed to the beach?” If you do, rethink your wardrobe. Court is no day at the beach.

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