Municipal Court respect

Last month (12/20) my 17 yr. old son got a ticket. He was stopped in a small town (~1000 pop.) for going 53 in a 25. Anything over 20 mph over the speed limit requires a court appearance. The town only has court once a month and it starts at 6 PM and the judge is an attorney from a nearby town.

The municipal court in the town where I work is right across the road from my office, and I see scruffy people going in there almost every day. I was just amazed that the defendents don’t seem to take any interest at all in their appearance. Granted, many of them were probably just getting off work and didn’t have much time to change, but fercryinoutloud, many of them just looked absolutely offensive. A woman who sat in front of us was wearing a sweater that was very loosely-knit and you could see everything. She had on a much-too-small bra and her nipples were probably within a fraction of an inch from being exposed. Most of the people there were dirty–looked like they hadn’t taken a shower or washed their clothes in a long time.

My second job after college was as a reporter on the cops, crime and court beat. I was shocked, shocked, to see so many show up for court, trial even in jeans, unshaven, quite possibly unwashed.

I know not everyone has a suit squirreled away in the closet, but come on, folks. The judge really will look more favorably on you if you at least show up looking like you take things more seriously than happy hour at Hooters.

I recently did jury duty. The defendant was charged with attempted B&E. He didn’t look terribly sympathetic, as he was dressed extremely casually. I can buy that he didn’t own a suit, and I doubt that the defense attorney would have sprung for one for the guy. Still, is it possible that he was wearing the clothes he was arrested in? I think (I’m not positive) that he was wearing the same clothes on both days of the trial.

It’s certainly within the realm of possibility that many people who are arrested and show up for court appearances are quite poor. Quite a few of them may also suffer from substance abuse problems, or mental problems. Homelessness may also play a factor; when one does not have a home it is more difficult to get regular showers and laundry.

Certainly some of these people may just be lazy and/or slovenly. But probably quite a few are either incapable or unable to get themselves up to a more proper standard.

As much as it’s an inevitable aspect of the human condition (for lack of a better term) I think it’s deplorable that justice (from fact-finding to sentencing) can be influenced by socioeconomic factors and such trivialities as [Cartman]respect for authoritah[/Cartman].

Of the 20 or so cases being heard, two were men wearing slacks, one (my son) was wearing new, black denim jeans and a collared shirt. One woman was a very pretty young blonde and she was dressed in business-casual–sorta like a bank teller or such. The woman in see-thru shirt was wearing camo shorts, one was wearing sweat pants and EVERYONE else was wearing blue jeans, mostly faded and/or torn and t-shirts, sweat shirts.

What I’m getting at is that it is not necessarily a homeless, drug addict, or poverty thing. It was pretty well standard. I guess it just means that, in general, people who break the law tend to have a disrespect for the entire justice system from the police to the judge. Some of the conversation occurring in there was very much anti-police. During the proceedings while the judge was trying to conduct the hearings, there was a great deal of chatter among the crowd to the point that the judge had to stop questions to have people quiet down.

I don’t get how your conclusions in the first 2 sentences of the 2nd paragraph are supported by the first.

Nor am I thrilled by your assertion that everyone in court has broken the law. Innocent until proven guilty, you know…

Anywhoo, you were there and we weren’t, are you suggesting that people got better or worse outcomes than they would have had they appeared in some universally neutral outfit, with an equally effective representative?

If so, I wonder where you feel your son came out on that side of the equation? Did he do better then get the justice he deserved, or did he do worse than he deserves?

What bothered me more than what people wore was how they spoke to the judge.

Them: Yeah, naw, etc. Oh, and some smacked their lips and did that head slide thing when they spoke.

When it was my turn I went into military mode: No Sir, Yes Sir, No Excuse.

I don’t think the OP was saying that the dirtier they are the less chance they have for a fair hearing. What I took from his post was that it is a sad state of affairs when you are called before a judge and you can’t make a minimal amount of effort to look presentable. (shower/deodorant, clean clothes…) Usually, the court date is set a few weeks ahead of time, so there should be plenty of time to clean up, if they cared at all. THAT is what I think he was speaking about.

Well, if you are going to say “No Excuse” then why not just plead guilty?

See, a court like that is like the DMV: wide swaths of society have to go through there for better or worse.

In a court, people do the best they can with what they have. As mentioned above, they may be poor or homeless or mentally ill or all of them. They may not have much education. They may not care about the proceedings.

Or they may have MORE education than you in a sense, in the the hearings are routine to them, they not the outcome in advance, and merely have to show up and do the dance.

Or all of that.

All I mean is that the people who were there tended to show a level of disrespect for the law in their mannerisms as well as their appearance. I would suspect that they should try to maintain some degree of respect and humility, even if it is just a small-town court, which is mostly hearing traffic ticket cases.


I don’t know for sure. His case was heard very early on. There were two women immediately after him and one had her case thrown out because the officer cited her for doing 35 in a 45, when she was actually doing 35 in a 25. She was wearing decent jeans and a grey t-shirt that looked like something a person would be painting in. The other was the aforementioned pretty young blonde. She pled guilty and paid an $80 fine.

The judge saw him as a good, but dumb kid who screwed up. Fine was supposed to be $130 but he gave him 6 months probation with a SIS. He has to pay $60 for a 1 day defensive driving class and paid the $22.50 court cost. I thought it was a fair sentence and was exactly what we had hoped for.

Zactly! :smiley:

Well, he seems to equate respect for the judicial system with clothes at the very least.

I can assure you that is not true, there are people dressed in their Sunday finest who are just as much against the behaviors of the police as he heard from those less well dressed.

We have a similar situation at City Council meetings here, and it threw me at first why people would come to speak to the council dressed like slobs.

But in addition to the crushing poverty here, some people are just coming from or going to work, and some people have been coming for so long, they are well known to the politicians, and so formality is dispensed with.

I imagine our court is the same as described in the OP, but so what? The judge doesn’t care how you present yourself I hope, and that’s all that matters.

Why? Were they disprespectful in speaking to the judge, or outside chambers? Did it affect their cases?

I had something like that happen to me once - the cop, by rote speech, testified to the wrong charges. That does not breed respect for the law, let me tell you. Well, for the Court, which did the right thing, but for cops who can’t even be arsed to read testimony from the right case?

Probably on her way to work, no? Else her worst outcome was she pays the fine. Maybe looking schlocky works in her favor if the judge has discretion on the fine, ya know?

So clothes made no difference to her either.

OK. So he pretty much got what the blonde with the nipples got, dollar-wise, plus he has to take a class, and keep clean for 6 months. Sounds all good to me.

There’s a wide variety of reasons for it. Some folks just don’t care. I have cousins who, when called before THE MAN couldn’t give a damn about how they looked. Some of them have no concept of dressing up. One cousin was going to court for a fender-bender and when his mom asked him if he was going to put on some clean clothes, he (seriously) asked, “why?”

I know one guy who is as insubordinate as he can get away with. He went to a wedding in shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops and when gigged about it later, said, “Shit. If I’d known that I’d have to dress up, I wouldn’t have come.” So it’s not hard to imagine that he might not feel so keen about dressing up for a speeding ticket, consequences be damned. In fact, I can easily imagine him doing it just as a self-destructive “Screw you” to the judge.

I was a public defender in Muni court for two and a half years, and a law clerk for the 2 before that.

My favorite story is the one where I would have had it resolved at the first pretrial date, but had to continue it because my client showed up wearing a t-shirt that said “One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.” Another client, who when I told him he would be better served by continuing the case and coming back at a later date without the t-shirt listing the “Top 20 things not to say to a police officer,” including such gems as “I thought I wanted to become a cop, but I figured instead I’d get my diploma,” refused and went before the judge that day anyway. Thankfully, he didn’t notice, or if he did, he did not say anything.

I work in juvenile court now, and for the most part the kids are better dressed than the adults, except for the ones who come to court in their gang colors. That’s never a good idea. I tell my clients to come to court dressed like they would for church. Sadly, saying “dress like you would for a job interview” doesn’t resonate with many of them in the same way it would for us.

There can be other explanations.

I remember one anecdote about a farmer who appeared in court (as a witness) wearing a flannel shirt, dirty overalls, and rubber boots. The judge addressed him as follows:

THE COURT: Witness, you have other clothes than the ones you’re wearing, do you not?
WITNESS: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Could you not have worn something else?
WITNESS: Well, sir, I woke up this morning at five to milk the cows. Then I went to church and received holy communion. I was going to return home and change before court this morning, but then I thought, “If it’s good enough for the Lord, it ought to be good enough for court.”
THE COURT: (reddening) Please proceed.

It’s not just court appearences, look at governmente workers. Virtually every bus driver in Chicago is a slob. They don’t shave, the women look like they never heard of a comb, most of them don’t even button their shirts right. They don’t have to care, so they don’t.

Our post office is the same way, a bunch of slobs working there. They look worse than the homeless people standing outside of the post office, holding the door for people and asking for money.

Go to Walgreens, the clerks are unshaved, they don’t comb their hair etc.

It’s just a sign of the times. The faux-hawk which is basically just messing your hair into a points so you don’t have to comb it.

To make it worse, clothes are now worn baggy. That’s the style, suits SHOULD be baggy according to fashion. So that contributes to the sloppiness factor.

Reminds me of “I Love Lucy,” when Ethel refuses to ride on the subway in a pair of blue jeans. Ethel dresses up to ride the subway? I guess in 1956 they did that


Most of them don’t button their shirts right? Seriously, or are you just making stuff up?

Hey hasn’t the trend been to cut back on govt workers and their salaries since, oh about 1980 or so?

Hey America - you want better dressed bus drivers, I am pretty sure you know where to start - make their working conditions more pleasant in every way. Guessing that won’t be happening anytime soon though.

Over the weekend, I was rewatching the Rifftrax of the old promotional short, “Flying Stewardesses.” Relevant point: Remember when “jacket and tie” was expected dress for flying on a plane?