April 19, 2014

Men in shorts, lawyer version.

Above the Law is coming down hard on a judge who excluded a lawyer who arrived at court wearing shorts.

The lawyer is claiming a special medical need:
He got knee surgery two weeks ago and as he told KDFW, “I have tubes that come out of my leg that make it prohibitive to wear (pants). This connects to my ice machine that is a way of taking down the swelling in my leg. I’m also incapable of putting on long pants by myself.” [James Lee] Bright says that Judge [Etta] Mullin refused to hear him out and now he’s crying foul.
Would you have listened to a lawyer explaining that one might be capable of putting on shorts but not pants and using the word "prohibitive" to discuss the logistics of ice machine tubes? The courtroom has a "no shorts" rule.

Above the Law says: "And it’s not like shorts can’t be respectful courtroom attire. In Bermuda the lawyers wear shorts to court." And then declares that the Bermuda courtroom style looks "stupid" and the disability argument is better.

But the Bermuda lawyers in shorts are following the rules of the place where they practice, not claiming the shorts are appropriate when the rule is against them. And in fact, the shorts are no more "stupid" than lawyers in wigs look stupid. It's an issue of rules and tradition. You don't get to write your own rules, even if your shorts are fabulous, although, as you may know, the Althouse rule against shorts does have a fabulousness exception. But Althouse does not exercise the power of the state enforcing any dress codes. I am a state actor as a state law school professor, but I've never articulated or enforced any classroom dress code. My "men in shorts" comments are solely blog-based, offered up in an effort to help men look like men and not like children.

On this topic of medical devices and tubing... I assume there are a lot of people who have things like this under their clothing and do not want it to show and that tubing is routinely covered up. Does anyone with medical experience have a fact-based opinion on the lawyer's argument that it was "prohibitive to wear" pants?

UPDATE: The judge is disciplined.

31 comments:

hombre said...

So the client gets screwed because the judge is a jerk.

I wore shorts once before the Arizona Court of Appeals because of sun poisoning. After I apologized and got permission to proceed, the Chief Judge commended me for my commitment.

I'd say the "Above the Law" column got it right.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

Maybe he'd have been better off had he worn a dress.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

If you have tubing coming out of your body, in any location, you don't want to wear restrictive clothing that will brush, rub or otherwise move the tubing. Shorts are wider in circumference in most cases and have less fabric to pull on over the tubing sticking out of your body. Once on, they wouldn't rub against the medical devices.

Since the Judge wasn't pleased with shorts, which would solve the rubbing problem, perhaps the attorney should have worn a dress or skirt that ended just above the knee. Women get to show their legs and knees in court. Why not the men.

EQUALITY!!!!! ;-)

Edmund said...

The original story on this is here: http://www.myfoxdfw.com/story/25245617/dallas-lawyer-recovering-from-surgery-kicked-out-of-court-for-wearing-shorts

It includes photos and video of the lawyer. He's in a very large brace that extends from the thigh to just above the ankle. The knee doesn't appear to bend. The cooling tube attach at the top and would be difficult to attach wearing normal pants. In short, he's in the right. The judge is wrong.

Edmund said...

Maybe he should have worn a kilt and sporran?

Ann Althouse said...

"Shorts are wider in circumference in most cases…"

Well, but that's the thing. The man needed some very wide pant legs, and maybe he didn't have any and didn't want to do the respectful thing and get a pair of pants with wide enough legs.

Obviously, long pants compress at the knee when you bend your legs, while shorts just ride up, so I assume that much more room is needed in the pants when you've got something bulging out your knee.

rhhardin said...

To be a tradition the thing must be both imposed and chosen.

Being chosen is in dispute, so the tradition is in dispute.

rhhardin said...

Shorts at work where they are not traditional is the recommended way of escaping the Peter principle.

jacksonjay said...

I think I choose the looking like a child over the fancy-pants dandy Tom Wolfe look! Just sayin!

MathMom said...

He should have showed up in a kilt.

This is discrimination against the disabled. ADA lawsuit in 3..2..1..

n.n said...

He could wear a solicitor's robe. Is there a protocol which requires determination of the undergarments?

john said...

Are you dispositive that long pants are prohibitive?

Mary Beth said...

Is there always someone at the courthouse with a video camera just in case something newsworthy happens? Or did he expect this to happen?

David said...

hombre said...
So the client gets screwed because the judge is a jerk.


The judge may be a jerk, but the lawyer has to take the judges as he finds them. Either find a way to wear pants, or give up the case to someone else. The lawyer in this case is serving his own interest, not the client's.

traditionalguy said...

Quelle horreure. Next they will issue men in shorts decals for the good parking spaces...what about equality???

traditionalguy said...

Kilts are the answer. Sexist rules against men in skirts has to go. The Scots win.

Zedediah Grimm said...

Mary Beth: As a former news photographer/producer, if there were a case being tried that was being covered as a news story, yes there would be. I was in a small podunk town and we weren't there every day but I imagine in a city like Dallas a new crew would be a regular feature at the courthouse.

I also think he should have worn a kilt. Kilts, like bow ties, are cool.

Bob Ellison said...

I wear an insulin pump. It sits in my pants pocket and connects to my abdomen, and I find formal attire that requires a tucked-in shirt uncomfortable. Not prohibitively so. I don't have to dress up often, but it's much nicer wearing an untucked shirt.

cassandra lite said...

I had one of those a few months ago after surgery to repair a break from a bike accident. The only pants that fit over it are sweat pants cut up the side. The judge, like a lot of judges these days, is a moral, ethical, and mental midget.

wholelottasplainin' said...

IIRC men in America have been wearing shorts for about as long as women have been wearing bras, namely since the 1930's, once corsets and later the mannish styles of the 20's went out of fashion.

So if not being "traditional" is the reason why American men should not be wearing shorts, then...off with the bras!

As for shorts being unmanly, shorts were considered part of "battle dress by the New Zealand, Australian and British armies until well after WWII.

Face it, Ann: this is just one of your pet dislikes. De gustibus, and all that.

Lucien said...

Sounds like the kind of judge no one really enjoys appearing before. Make a list of the qualities you'd like to see in a judge and see if this judge's behavior makes you think he has those qualities.

southcentralpa said...

And yet Belle Knox will probably be found to have the necessary moral character to be admitted to the bar ...

David-2 said...

To me the true point to ponder is the awesome comprehensiveness of stock photo providers that enabled Above The Law to find such an appropriate illustration for their article.

(The caption of the photo, which probably came from the stock photo provider, is "nude businessman isolated on white" which isn't quite correct - it isn't a nude businessman - but a guy in half-a-suit holding what could easily be a lawyer's briefcase ... perfect.)

Real American said...

since it has now been decided that tradition cannot be a rational basis supporting our laws, these rules should be done away with. certainly, no one should be denied the access to a court of law on account of some silly "tradition" that otherwise serves no legitimate purpose.

The Godfather said...

OK, all lots of fun, but to be serious for a minute, if you are a lawyer and something like this happens to you, if it is at all possible, you get word to the judge's chambers in advance (I know, not always possible). If you can't do that, you apologize as soon as you get before the judge, you grovel if necessary.

If, nevertheless, the judge gives you a lot of shit, you take it like a man (albeit a man in shorts): Your objective is to represent your client, not to score points for your "disability".

RecChief said...

maybe he should have just bought big pants and let em sag...that seems an appropriate type of dress in this society

FleetUSA said...

Lawyers get trial delays for all sorts of reasons (some not the most honest). Couldn't he get a hearing delayed for medical purposes?

Walt said...

To Dust Bunny Queen, who asserts you need non-restrictive clothing when you have tubes coming out of your body.

Real esperience: I had a drain tube out of my abdomen for nine weeks and wore ordinary everyday pants, not loose shorts, without difficulty, even while coiling and turning abruptly while playing golf almost daily.

What we have here is an attorney who wants to attract attention to himself through an obvious condition indicating special dedication. If no shorts, you might not recognize how outstanding he is to be in court in such a condition.

But then, all lawyers, including myself, are convinced they are outstanding, with or without any evidence to support the notion.

Douglas said...

I had knee surgery in January and to assist with the recovery the doctor prescribed a device that pumped cold water to a compress wrapped around my knee. The compress, with three tubes coming out if it, was attached to the knee with velcro straps. The tubes had quick release connectors to attach to the cold water compressing machine. The machine was way too big to carry around; you could leave it under a desk if you were going to be there all day, but you certainly could not take it to the courtroom with you. My read of the case here is that the lawyer just didn't want to be troubled to take the compress off when he dressed for court. He was not using the compress in court. He didn't want to have to take off his suit pants, and put his shorts and compress back on, when he returned to the office. In short, I don't think the lawyer was entitled to any kind of medical dispensation from the court's general dress code.

Nina said...

If this judge hasn't actually violated the ADA she has at least violated the spirit of the ADA. The judge's "no shorts" rule does not trump the law and it shouldn't trump common sense.

If this were a long-term condition (like an amputation) he'd need to get tailored clothes, but shorts are a good accommodation for a short-term issue. Would it be possible for him to get pants on? Maybe (he'd look like MC Hammer). Could he take it off? Maybe. But we really don't know what his schedule or medical was like on that day.

The idea that this guy should have called ahead to warn the court of -- what? -- looking disabled (god forbid us able-bodied folks be reminded that we're not invincible) is insulting.

The disabled have enough extra hassle (imagine going through security with that thing) without having to apologize for their disability because it makes them look different.

If there were a jury then he would need to offer some explanation, but a judge should be able to handle this kind of accommodation.

Instead, her actions were a step backwards for the civil rights of the disabled.

Corina Dunho said...

If this judge hasn't actually violated the ADA she has at least violated the spirit of the ADA. The judge's "no shorts" rule does not trump the law and it shouldn't trump common sense.

If this were a long-term condition (like an amputation) he'd need to get tailored clothes, but shorts are a good accommodation for a short-term issue. Would it be possible for him to get pants on? Maybe (he'd look like MC Hammer). Could he take it off? Maybe. But we really don't know what his schedule or medical was like on that day.

The idea that this guy should have called ahead to warn the court of -- what? -- looking disabled (god forbid us able-bodied folks be reminded that we're not invincible) is insulting.

The disabled have enough extra hassle (imagine going through security with that thing) without having to apologize for their disability because it makes them look different.

If there were a jury then he would need to offer some explanation, but a judge should be able to handle this kind of accommodation.

Instead, her actions were a step backwards for the civil rights of the disabled.