November 7, 1983
Opinion No. 83/12
Judge's authority to establish a dress code
This is in response to your inquiry of October 5th, 1983. You inquired whether a trial judge has the authority to control dress of persons appearing before the court, if the dress is inappropriate and jeopardizing the dignity of the proceeding. Of the nine members of the committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges responding to your inquiry, all were unanimous that you do have the authority. In Sandstrom v. State, 309 So.2d 17 (Fla. 4DCA 1975) affirmed 336 So.2d 572 (Fla. 1976), the Supreme court upheld the trial judge's authority to make a lawyer wear a tie. The case does caution that the judge act reasonably in controlling the attire of persons appearing before him, in that his requirements must bear a reasonable relationship to a justifiable end or purpose.
Most of us were of the opinion your inquiry was not one concerning the application of the Canons of Ethics, but one concerning the power of a court to control decorum in the courtroom. However, one of the members of the Committee has called our attention to Canon 3 (A) (2), which requires that a judge "maintain order and decorum in proceedings before him." That Canon would seem to form a basis for the prohibition of inappropriate attire.
James T. Carlisle
Chairman, Committee on Standards
of Conduct Governing Judges
Participating members: Judges Carlisle, Booth, Hewitt, Letts, Turner, Green, Grube, Tedder, and Attorney Samuel J. Powers, Jr.