Supreme Court says ‘only black’ for state judges

BY JIM SAUNDERS
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Supreme Court says the issue comes down to public trust and confidence.

And from now on, that means judges can only wear solid black robes when they head into court.

Despite arguments that it doesn’t need to act as the fashion police, the Supreme Court approved a rule that will prevent Florida judges from wearing colorful robes or other adornments while presiding over cases. Justices said in an eight-page decision last week that judges “wearing different colored robes or robes with varying embellishments” could lead to uncertainty for people going before courts.

“Depending on the color or pattern of the robe or the type of embellishment worn, some may wonder whether the presiding judge is a ‘real judge’ or whether the judge will take the proceedings seriously,’’ the decision said.

Reflection of mood?
“Robe color also could be seen as a reflection of a judge’s mood or attitude that day. Should a defendant facing the death penalty feel trepidation when the presiding judge appears in a red robe or feel more at ease when the robe is green? The possibility that the unique attire of the judge assigned to one’s case could raise these concerns and thereby diminish public trust and confidence in the proceedings is not acceptable.

“The public should not have to guess as to the meaning of different colored, patterned, or embellished robes,’’ the decision said. “Promoting uniformity in judicial attire, by requiring all judges to wear unembellished, solid black robes, will no doubt avoid these concerns and promote public trust and confidence.

“The people of Florida have a right to expect equal justice every day…and should not have to question whether equal justice is being dispensed based on the color of a judge’s robe.”

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