The Road Worrier: Court Etiquette

By Greg D. Rawlings

Recently, I was in the security line snaking into Denver’s relatively new courthouse when I noticed that the woman behind me was wearing pajamas and bedroom slippers. Then I noticed that her boyfriend—who I smelled before I saw—was wearing a cheap weed tee shirt. Not hemp, which is comfy and rather elegant looking, but your classic pot-themed tee: the kind that go 4 for $20 on 4-20. My mind wandered back to a day in the mid-90s in Jeffco when a judge chastised my client for wearing sweats to court. My client was very sweaty, very large and very sick.

Bunny-SlippersI’d begged his wife to drag him out of bed because the judge wouldn’t stay a warrant for me. So I stood six feet from the podium and held my breath. I had a baby at home and had no desire to waltz back into our condo dragging along a host of infectious diseases. Ah, those were the days. I looked at my current line-mate and thought: Geez, how about a trip to Walmart for some actual clothes? Heck, why not splurge and go to Target. I mean, there’s a Goodwill about a mile from the courthouse. Go there. I once had a client who did his Useful Public Service at that Goodwill. He mainly sorted used shoes. The stink was so bad he swore never to commit another non-bicycling related crime. Go there denizens of 520 West Colfax Avenue! Go there and buy actual clothes to wear to court. It’s cheap and easy and people won’t ridicule you behind your back.

Which brings me to elevators. Or pulley-drawn sardine cans like at most area courthouses. Do not hold the door open for anyone unless that someone is me. But especially don’t hold it open for the woman in the pajamas and her eau de skunk weed boyfriend. Just don’t. Please, I beg of you. Crutches, wheelchairs, pregnant, sure, be a gent or a lady but for the rest of the hoi polloi: never. Worse still, the amount of frottage in courthouse elevators is worse than the crowds watching World Nude Bike Day rallies. You’ll have to trust me on that.And what happened to World Nude Bike Day, I ask you? A perfectly good international holiday. I once prosecuted a bunch of Denver riders for this escapade. They’d walk into the godawful interview room in the old Denver courthouse and say, prove it. Ah, those glorious early days of social media. I’d found photos of all of them posted online, which I had them autograph as they mostly pleaded guilty.

But let me tell you, none of the World Nude Bike Day riders wore pajamas and slippers to the courtroom!

The pics they posted were quite good, I must say. ID was not an issue for most of the cases.

But back to elevators. Denver built a phantom elevator in the new courthouse. Which, if you believe the sign attached to its wood shield, will soon become a real elevator. How weird is that? Who builds a phantom elevator in a brutally expensive new building then, voila! decides to make it into the real deal. I’ll believe it when I see it. As someone who once got stuck for forty minutes in the old Supreme Court building’s elevator, to be finally dragged out groggy and ready to give up post-conviction practice, by security, I know an evil force when I see it. Or ride in it…up and down, up and down, repeat ad nauseum. Trust me, I won’t be the first cowboy in the chute when they open that new elevator.

I say building security takes the first person they find that day in line in pajamas and bedroom slippers and escorts that slob straight to the up button. But that’s just me.

It’s not like I expect most of the public, when they find themselves facing criminal charges, or worse, jury duty, to dress up for the occasion: just have the decency not to dress down for it.

I have a rule that no client is allowed to dress better than I do, which is not that difficult a feat. I prefer that they show up on time and not utterly wasted.

I wish I didn’t have to wear suits and sports coats every day to court. But that’s the gig. And even if it’s not someone’s gig, maybe they can play act for a few hours. And dress like grown-ups. And not smash into me while pushing into the elevator. Is that too much to ask in these declining days of the Republic. Is it really too much to ask?

Then again, I should probably thank my lucky stars there isn’t a World Nude Court Day. We’d all be begging for pajamas and bedroom slippers then.



greg-photoThe Road Worrier is an unpaid intern at the office of Greg D. Rawlings, PC He begs you to send money to