Call this a new spin on the fashion police. Some local judges are cracking down on the dress code in court, not for those charged with crimes, but the attorneys. They said certain female lawyers are dressing inappropriately.
"As you can tell from my age, I'm not a fashion expert," said Rutherford County Circuit Judge Royce Taylor.
But if you are an attorney and want to practice law in Taylor's courtroom you better be wearing your Sunday best or you could be held in contempt of court.
"I think it's a reflection upon the legal profession as a whole," Taylor said. "We wear a robe because of the seriousness and we expect the attorneys to also reflect the serious purpose we're there on."
Taylor and other judges have received complaints from the Rutherford-Cannon County Bar Association about some female attorneys showing a little too much skin and others just disrespecting the court.
"Most of the complaints came from the attorneys wearing sleeveless attire," Taylor said. "In one case I had one to appear in a golf shirt, a woman. I didn't feel that was appropriate."
Female lawyers are now required to wear jackets or business attire. Sleeveless shirts and mini-skirts are a no, no.
The judge is not just picking on female attorneys. A California attorney appeared before Taylor wearing a shirt and tie, claiming his wife forgot to pack his blazer. The judge called him out on it and recessed court. The attorney returned a short time later wearing an expensive jacket.
"I said 'we'll start the trial as soon as you buy a jacket,'" Taylor said. "He was able to find one at the Men's Shop on the Square that fit him. Mine wouldn't fit him. It cost him $750 to start the trial."
Mary Pirtle has been practicing law for 13 years, and has seen it all from the latest fashion trends to the not so fashionable.
"I have seen skirts too short, I have seen flip flops," said Pirtle.
She dresses to the nines and feels other attorneys, men and women both, should do the same.
"I think we should always look professional," Pirtle said. "I think a judge or anyone else should be able to look out and distinguish the attorneys from other persons in the court.
So far at least one female attorney is hot under the collar about the dress code.
"I've only had one negative response from a Nashville attorney who says can she take her jacket off when she has hot flashes," Taylor said while laughing. "I don't know how to deal with that."
Taylor held another male attorney in contempt for not wearing a jacket. He made him donate $50 to his favorite charity.
We received a copy of the memo Taylor sent to members of the Rutherford/Cannon County Bar regarding the dress code.
To: Members of Rutherford/Cannon County Bar
From: Judge Royce Taylor
Date: June 7, 2013
Re: Professional Dress for Attorneys
At the recent Bench/Bar Committee meeting, the subject of attorneys' professional dress in court was discussed. The unanimous opinion was that the women attorneys were not being held to the same standard as the men. It was requested that the judges require all attorneys to dress professionally.
I have advised some women attorneys that a jacket with sleeves below the elbow is appropriate or a professional dress equivalent. If you have questions, please contact my assistant, Angela Sellers, at 848-5143.
Your personal appearance in court is a reflection upon the entire legal profession. Litigants and members of the public should be confident that we both act and look professional.
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