Coronavirus: Florida judge tells lawyers, clients to dress properly for Zoom court hearings

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — It is common for lawyers and their clients to be attired in suits and dress clothes when court is in session. With the coronavirus pushing court cases online and giving the legal process a casual feel, a Florida judge known for being outspoken is reminding participants the dress code still applies.

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Broward Circuit Judge Dennis Bailey made the plea in a letter published through the Weston Bar Association. More pointedly, Bailey, who was first elected to the bench in 2014, said attorneys should get out of bed and put their clothes on when conducting hearings through Zoom.

“The judges would appreciate it if the lawyers and their clients keep in mind these Zoom hearings are just that: hearings. They are not casual phone conversations,” Bailey wrote. “It is remarkable how many ATTORNEYS appear inappropriately on camera. We’ve seen many lawyers in casual shirts and blouses, with no concern for ill-grooming, in bedrooms with the master bed in the background, etc.”

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Bailey complained that one male attorney appeared shirtless during a Zoom hearing, while a female lawyer was on camera while in bed “still under the covers.”

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“And putting on a beach cover-up won’t cover up (that) you’re poolside in a bathing suit,” Bailey wrote. “So, please, if you don’t mind, let’s treat court hearings as court hearings, whether Zooming or not.”

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Bailey is noted for his candor. In December 2018, he was reprimanded after berating a defense lawyer during a criminal trial in front of the jury, the Sun-Sentinel reported. Bailey admitted his misconduct to the state’s to the Judicial Qualifications Commission and agreed to be reprimanded before the Florida Supreme Court, the newspaper reported.

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Courthouses were shut down in Broward County on March 16 in a move to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Sun-Sentinel reported. Through Zoom, the Broward County courts have held about 1,200 meetings that involved 14,000 people, according to The Associated Press.

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