Dress Code If You Are Going To Court
Dress Code If You Are Going to Court
Just so you know, no bedroom slippers if you are going to court, whether you are the defendant, a witness or if you are going to be a juror.
The dress code may be different “up north” but down here in the south we like ‘em” to dress up, bless our hearts, I am sure glad about that.
Georgia Courts Enforce Dress Codes
Suzanne Monyak, Daily Report
Gerald Weber John Disney/Daily Report
If you are planning on entering a Georgia courthouse this summer, leave the tank tops and shorts at home.
Different courthouses have different rules, though the Bibb County Courthouse in Macon seems to have one of the toughest policies—and the most detailed.
According to the dress code posted on its website, many things are prohibited, including: tank tops, halter tops, sleeveless T-shirts, muscle shirts, shorts, ripped jeans, low-riding pants, camouflage clothing, sweatpants and track suits, more piercings than one earring per ear, hats (except for religious purposes), bedroom shoes or slippers, and clothing that is either too baggy or too tight, as well as clothing with obscene or gang-related images or symbols. The policy also mandates that skirts may be no shorter than two inches above the knee, all women and post-pubescent girls must wear bras, all pants must be supported by a belt or suspenders, and all shirts and blouses must be tucked in. Undergarments, the abdomen and cleavage may not be visible.
"This is a place of business and in a place of business, proper dress should be worn. The court should have more respect than to dress inappropriately in their [the judges'] presence," said Major Harry Colbert of the Bibb County Sheriff's Office, who is in charge of the courthouse dress code policy.
According to Colbert, about one person a day is turned away from the courthouse for a dress code violation, most commonly young men wearing shorts or sagging pants, he said. However, due to recent media coverage of the courthouse's dress code policy, he said that number has been reduced to about two to three dress code violators a week.
Colbert said that if an individual is only attending to business in the clerk's office of the Bibb County Courthouse—located on the first floor away from the courtrooms—the deputy at the courthouse may employ more leniency to the rules at his or her discretion. Additionally, if a dress code violator has been subpoenaed to court and does not have time to go home and change clothing, the deputy will make an exception and allow the individual into the courthouse.
A similarly thorough dress code policy was ordered by the district court judges for all courthouses in the Southern District of Georgia, which includes the courthouses in Augusta, Brunswick, Dublin, Savannah, Waycross and Statesboro. This policy, signed by Chief Judge Lisa Godbey Wood in January 2014, bans from the courthouses bare feet, shorts, tank tops and sleeveless shirts, belly-baring tops, offensive clothing and tattoos, and clothes and body parts that are dirty.
The judicial order goes further to provide an additional dress code for those entering a courtroom. Males must wear trousers, a collared shirt, shoes and socks. Females must wear slacks, dresses or skirts no shorter than two inches above the knee, and shirt sleeves must be at three-quarter length and have a "business-like appearance." Jeans are prohibited in the courtrooms.
In Fulton County Superior Court and DeKalb County Superior Court, there is no specifically enforced dress code policy, but rather a set of guidelines for the public to use as suggestions. It is at each individual judge's discretion to enforce a dress code in his or her own courtroom.
According to Gerry Weber, senior staff counsel at the Southern Center for Human Rights and an adjunct law professor specializing in constitutional litigation and First Amendment law, certain dress codes could be a violation of the public's right of access to courts, depending on how that dress code is enforced. For example, he said, if the dress code is vague and the court fails to provide the public with sufficient notice of the rules, the public could be unjustly blocked from observing a public hearing.
Weber noted that just posting the dress code on the courthouse website would not be considered sufficient notice.
"It's not sufficient for people who don't have Internet access or don't know to go on the website," he said.
He added that if an individual arrives at court to observe a hearing and is asked to go home and change, in his view, the hearing should not be conducted in his or her absence.
Hollie Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, expressed her concerns for the possibly subjective nature of a dress code, which at the Bibb County Courthouse is enforced by deputies.
"While courts may impose reasonable restrictions on dress, any dress code or policy should not be used to deter citizen access to any courthouse. Also, when applied, any dress code or policy must be applied evenly, and cannot be used to bar someone a sheriff, marshal or other court official simply does not like," Manheimer wrote in a comment. "While not usually problematic on their face, the application of policies such as these is very difficult and as a result sometime unfairly deny citizens access to courtrooms."