At a federal mortgage-fraud case in Orlando, Florida, the question of how jurors should dress has come up, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Two lawyers claim that the rights of their clients were violated when security officers at the court turned down prospective jurors because they violated the dress code at the court. The lawyers are Bruce A. Zimet and John E. Bergendahl. They claim that the removal of the possible jurors violated the Sixth Amendment rights of their clients to have a jury compiled from a cross-section of the community. The lawyers said the dismissal of also violated the individuals’ right to sit on a jury.
“There is no reason to believe each of these individuals was not at least equally or more qualified than any juror who ultimately sat in judgment in this case,” the lawyers wrote in a motion filed on May 30 when asking for a new trial.
The dress code from the Orlando division of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida reads as follows:
“You are expected to conduct yourself with reserve and courtesy, and when appearing at the courthouse, must dress appropriately to preserve the dignity of the Court. Proper attire includes coat and tie for men and similarly appropriate attire for women. No jeans, polo shirts or sneakers.”
Zimet was told of the dismissals by other lawyers working on the case, but the motion did not say how many potential jurors were sent away by the security officials at the court. Zimet also wants to determine if the guards acting by themselves or on behalf of the judge presiding over the case.
Sheryl L. Loesch, the Middle District of Florida clerk of court, said that only judges are permitted to turn away possible jurors who violate the dress code.
“Our policy is that the court security officers do not screen jurors for dress code,” Loesch said. She also said that judged are allowed to make exceptions for medical conditions.
The judge presiding over the case is Judge John A. Jarvey.
A professor from the University of the District of Columbia, Andrew G. Ferguson, said that the lawyers could have a case if the guards were acting on their own volition.
“The court, through the judges, should make the decision about who is ‘suitable’ or suitably attired for jury service,” he said. “I do not know the demographic realities of the courthouse, but I could see, if done on a regular basis, it could distort the diversity of the jury pool.”
Read More on the Lawyer’s dress code in the court room.