Bar News - June 23, 2006
Court Apparel Should Show Proper Respect
This editorial was reprinted with permission from the Portsmouth Herald, May 12, 2006.
There was a time when people were proud to dress neatly, cleanly and (if they were lucky) attractively. Those days seem to be gone forever.
More to the point, [the Portsmouth Herald] recently ran an article that focused on clothing “styles” in the local district courtroom. The article made it clear that slovenly dress has metastasized its way in from the street, up the stairway, into the courtroom, across the bar enclosure, and now has sat itself at the defendant’s table.
Right here in the Port City.
Admittedly, people summoned to our district court for alleged violations of the law have no choice but to be there. In fact, an arrest warrant would be issued if they did not show up.
These same people also have the constitutional right to a fair trial. Indeed, the New Hampshire state Constitution requires that these defendants will be tried by judges and juries “as impartial as the lot of humanity will admit.” (Candidly, we wish we were the author of that glorious phrase.)
Well, the people of the state of New Hampshire have some rights, too, and one of them is the right to some respect from these defendants.
After all, the people of New Hampshire have gone to great expense to make sure that justice is achieved in our courts, even for people who do not have enough respect for themselves to dress appropriately.
Remember, Americans have died face down in the mud to make our country free and just. Our courtrooms are a daily celebration of that sacred memory.
Enforcing a “dress code” in the local courtroom may be about as much fun as being a hall monitor in high school. (Of course, the hall monitor is now being replaced by Officer Friendly, and you might have to pass through a metal detector to get into the hall in the first place. That’s another matter for another day.)
But we think that enforcing a dress code in the courtroom is an effort worth making. There are more important matters to deal with, for sure, but this should be done.
We want the judges to know that they have our full support in this.