Local News

Durham Judge Wants Court Visitors To Dress In Respectful Attire

Posted May 3, 2000

— If you had to appear in court and stand before a judge, you would probably want to look your Sunday best. A Durham judge recently threw two people out of court for showing up at their hearings dressed too casually.

Judge Elaine O'Neal is putting people on notice: modest and respectful attire is required. On Wednesday, the district court judge asked two offenders to leave her courtroom because of their offensive outfits.

"Basically, I think a person should come in respectful attire," O'Neal says. "I have a problem, though, when it borders on the obscene like I saw yesterday; a halter top with shorts, Daisy Duke shorts."

A man was also booted out of court for wearing swim trunks.

"I think beachwear is for the beach," O'Neal says. "There's no need for me to see your thighs."

O'Neal says she is not trading in her robe and gavel to play fashion police. She just believes people should use some common sense.

Most people agree with the judge's views.

"I wouldn't go into a courtroom dressed inappropriately, you just don't do it," says court visitor Christina Pfunter. "You're going to get in more trouble going in dressed like that, than dressed like this."

"I have had a couple of people come to court inappropriately and I told them to go home and change their clothes," says attorney Ken Duke.

O'Neal has posted signs outside her courtroom that outlines the long and short of the dress code.

"Shorts and halter tops are OK for nightclubs, I guess, but not for the courtroom," O'Neal says.

Right now, this dress code only affects Judge O'Neal's courtroom. Next week, all six district court judges will meet to discuss the possibility of a uniform dress code for all the courtrooms.

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