21 May Illinois Judges to Attorneys: Let’s Spiff it Up a Bit, Shall We?
I found this great blog entry on the law blog at the WSJ.com (http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/05/21/illinois-judges-to-attorneys-lets-spiff-it-up-a-bit-shall-we/). It seems that “business casual” has to be redefined again – now in court. Where is the respect for our professions? For ourselves? For those we work with?
By Ashby Jones
Some esteemed federal judges in Illinois, it seems, have a bone to pick with some of the lawyers who appear before them. It concerns not the lawyers’ cross-examination or Bluebooking skills, but their attire. … Apparently, the judges launched in on their sartorial sniping earlier this week at a panel discussion at the Seventh Circuit Bar Association meeting. The discussion was reportedly touched off by Northern District of Illinois judge Joan Lefkow, who reportedly said some women attorneys should pay more attention to dressing appropriately for court. Specifically, Lefkow reported having an issue with one woman who had shown up for a court hearing in attire that looked as though she had stopped in “on her way home from the gym.” Lefkow then suggested that lawyers address the “delicate issue” with female colleagues at their firms, and suggested that women lawyers consult www.corporette.com, a fashion Web site one of her clerks had shown her. A fellow panel member, Central District of Illinois chief judge Michael McClusky picked up the theme, apparently dismayed that some women come into court wearing “skirts so short that there’s no way they can sit down and blouses so short there’s no way the judges wouldn’t look.” Northern District of Illinois bankruptcy judge Benjamin Goldgar chimed in, saying he too considers the issue “a huge problem.” Sometimes it’s so difficult that Goldgar said he wishes he could tell the female lawyer standing before him: “I’d really like to pay attention to your argument.” Goldgar said that male attorneys who come before him with wacky ties, like those with lots of smiley faces, also cross the line of appropriateness. And wherein lies the cause of this? Some of the attendees blamed law firms for not giving lawyers enough guidance. Others said law schools needed to do a better job of educating young lawyers on appropriate dress. … On the one hand, we can understand the need to maintain decorum and dignity in the courtroom. On the other, we’re not sure how we feel about the thought of a judge losing concentration over an attorney’s attire. And smiley-faced ties? Are these really such an affront?