Male Judge Sets Dress Code For Female Lawyers And Sparks Uproar
Dress standards have been slipping in the courtrooms of Murfreesboro, Tenn. for quite some time, according to locals. One legal assistant (who asked to remain anonymous) said he's seen a woman in flip flops. A couple attorneys mentioned the same rumor about a woman in sweatpants, although no one had seen it with their own eyes. The subject finally erupted at a recent Bench/Bar Committee meeting, prompting Circuit Judge Royce Taylor to pen a notice about it. He wrote:
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.Continuing:
I have advised some women attorneys that a jacket with sleeves below the elbow is appropriate or a professional dress equivalent.
Nashville-based attorney Karla Miller, who does some work in Rutherford, told USA Today that she was "slightly offended," by the judge's action, but admitted that "some ladies are dressing in a manner that should be bothersome to other lady lawyers who strive to be professional."
While the issue has been brewing for years, Taylor, who's been a judge since 1998, told AOL Jobs that he'd been reluctant to approach it. "Being an older white male judge I realized I'm at a disadvantage to try to talk about this subject. I'm certainly not a fashion guru," he explained.
Taylor wasn't surprised by the reaction, at all. "I think our role as judges is to promote professionalism, which is why we haven't addressed the issue -- because we were concerned how we were going to be perceived, as older male white judges who were out of touch." "I think this has been an ongoing problem for a considerable period of time," says David Scott, the president of the local bar association, and it became a heated topic of discussion at the most recent Bench and Bar Committee meeting.
Many in the local legal community agree with Taylor's points, including Scott, the president of the local bar association. "There are no casual days in court," he explains. "Our clients pay us money that does not come easy to them, and I think we owe them to look our best when we're up there representing them."
But Taylor never anticipated that he'd make the national news. "I'm glad it's sparking conversation. It probably was needed," he says. And he insists that he's not picking on women, and never suggested a pantyhose rule.
"I don't think I could defend that in any way," says Scott, about the pantyhose rumor. "Even as an attorney, I don't think I could even find the gray area for that one."
Check out the slideshow, "What Not To Wear To The Office This Summer."
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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