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Judge halts hearing over man’s outfit

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A judge refused to hear a divorce case, after one of the men pitched up to court in jeans and a floral shirt.

Durban - KwaZulu-Natal judges are laying down the law on appropriate court dress – and men, in particular, have been warned not to come to court in “jeans and takkies”.

In the past few weeks, at least two judges have told men appearing for divorce proceedings that they were dressed inappropriately. In an incident last Wednesday, a man, dressed in jeans and a floral print turquoise shirt, was told by his advocate and attorney to “go buy clothes” after Judge Gregory Kruger refused to hear his divorce unless he was dressed properly.

Judge Kruger declined to comment on the issue on Sunday, but has made his view on the matter clear while in court.

He has previously said in court: “People cannot come to court in jeans and takkies and expect to be heard. Attorneys need to advise their clients to be dressed appropriately.”

Judge Trevor Gorven also warned recently that members of the public appearing before his court should be dressed smartly, unless there was good reason why they could not.

A lawyer, who did not want to be named, said the dress code issue had been going on for years. “The problem is that there is no uniformity because some judges will take a view and insist on what should be worn, while others do not notice it. It really is a question of respect for the court. You would not wear jeans to your own wedding so you should not wear them to court.”

Another lawyer suggested that there should be a practice directive drawn up by Judge President Chiman Patel.

A KZN judge, who did not want to be named, said: “I am a stickler for tradition. It preserves the dignity of the court and the solemnity of the occasion. Respect for court orders comes from the whole experience. Court dress contributes significantly to the formality of the process.”

Retired KZN judge president Vuka Tshabalala said courts should be respected. “A court should be held in high regard by society and therefore people appearing before the court should be presentable.”

Judge Tshabalala did not want to be drawn on what is appropriate or not, but said each judge had their own opinion.

Judge Patel could not be reached for comment. - The Mercury


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