Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Another Fashion Disaster

    Another day in Montgomery County Court means another fashion disaster.
    As a 38-year-old woman facing a DUI-related charge entered the courtroom, it was hard not to notice the outfit she wore – skin tight jeans with pockets embossed with shiny appliques and a black, lacy blouse that bared her skin. The jeans were so low you could see the woman’s backside peeking out at times and she hiked them up several times as she waited in court.
    Judge Cheryl L. Austin noticed too when she took the bench.  
    “What are you wearing? Where did you think you were coming?” Austin, expressing disbelief, sternly addressed the woman about her inappropriate courtroom attire.
    “I didn’t know there was a dress code. I apologize,” the woman told the judge.
    At that point, the woman’s lawyer advised her to put her coat back on to cover up. The Bucks County woman, who pleaded guilty to a charge she drove under the influence of prescription drugs in Lower Moreland in May 2012, spent the remainder of the hearing in her coat. Her sentence was deferred, so she could undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation, and she will have to return to court at later date to learn her fate. It will be interesting to see if the judge’s message sunk in.
    But the improper fashion choice wasn’t the woman’s only faux pas. She showed up an hour late for her hearing and Austin was equally unamused. The woman told the judge she was stuck in traffic.
Judge Cheryl Austin/Photo by Times Herald Staff
“This is really important. For future hearings you need to be here an hour before. If you get caught in traffic that shows me this just isn’t important,” Austin told the woman, reminding her she will have to return to court later to be sentenced. “Do you think you can do that?”
    “Yes,” the woman answered, obviously caught off-guard by the judge’s comments.
    The judge, who retired as a U.S. Navy Captain in 2004 and served as a county prosecutor before being elected judge in 2011, reminded the woman that she'll be deciding her fate.
    “It’s important for you to impress upon me how seriously you take this case. You need to be on time. You need to be dressed like you’re going to court. You can’t be an hour late. You can’t be dressed like that,” Austin told the woman.
   I compliment Judge Austin, who made her point without ever really raising her voice, for demanding decorum in her courtroom. I think more judges should demand it.
   Some old-timers here at Swede and Airy can recall a time when people dressed for court, men in suits or shirts and ties, and women in dresses, even for jury duty.
   But I see it on a daily basis - ragged T-shirts with inappropriate phrases; caps worn in court; low-cut blouses revealing way too much cleavage; short skirts that leave nothing to the imagination; and yes, way too many saggy jeans displaying way too much butt. No one wants or needs to see it!
   There is a lack of respect becoming all too prevalent in dress and language. I’ve said it here before, there is a lack of decorum and incivility, amazingly, even in our courts of law, institutions that should garner respect. 

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