Court Officials Decry Defendants’ Attire

Court attire
Most local courthouses have a dress code, but few people follow it.

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When someone  goes to a job interview, they probably wear business attire, including a suit for women and a suit and tie for men.

But what if they have to go to court? As it turns out, people’s wardrobe choices may not always be the best when they face a judge.

On a recent day in court, a group of defendants stood before the judge to be arraigned, but their attire vastly differed.

During the past few weeks in several local courtrooms, defendants could be seen wearing tennis shoes, jeans, leather jackets, t-shirts, leggings, hooded sweatshirts, sweatpants, work uniforms and sandals. There were very few, if any, suits and ties.

“Everything you can imagine,” said Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge R. Scott Krichbaum.

Krichbaum said he believes the courtroom should demand respect and reverence.

“It should be where that’s the last thing that a judge should have to worry about: Are people going to dress appropriately for court?  But it’s the most obvious thing when you first see someone,” Krichbaum said.

It was obvious to many when convicted Chardon High School shooter TJ Lane unbuttoned his shirt, revealing a t-shirt underneath that read “Killer.” That was just one example of outrageous attire that has the potential to harm legal proceedings.

Krichbaum said when he finds a person’s clothing offensive, he requires them to change into the orange overalls worn by jail inmates.

“When someone comes to court they demand my respect.  They want me to respect them. Afford them all their rights.  Treat them appropriately.  And yet they come to court and disrespect the court by dressing inappropriately,” he said.

The case load in lower courts like Youngstown Municipal Court often makes it difficult to catch all the inappropriate outfits. But there is a dress code in place and it is enforced.

Before someone ever sets foot inside a courtroom, as they enter through the main doors, that’s where they meet their first line of defense.

The security guards, at almost every level in City Hall, ask if someone is going to court and advises them on their clothing. They recommend those with ripped up jeans to not enter or women with low-cut tops to cover up.

“If they choose to ignore the warnings of security staff and come into court, then it will be pointed out to the judge or the judge will notice it,” said Youngstown Municipal Court Administrator George Denney.

If the judge notices, the individual may be asked to leave. So the judges and court staff suggest defendants dress in their Sunday best.

Even when a person gets called to jury duty, there is a business casual dress code they are asked to follow.

“For jury duty, the same as if you’re coming in to appear in court as a defendant or a plantiff. You are coming into a courtroom, there is some decorum that should be observed,” said Mahoning County Jury Administrator Bob Jackson. “We get calls from people, ‘what exactly does that mean?’ Pretty much what we ask people to wear is what’s court appropriate.  You don’t want to see people coming in wearing real short cutoff jeans or t-shirts with holes or shirts with innapropriate sayings.  Things like that.”

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