Dress Code, Hard to Enforce?

According to the Chronicle, San Francisco Superior Court Executive Officer T. Michael Yuen decided to enforce the 1996 dress code to promote respect for the public and the judicial system. Approximately 90% of staff interacts with the public. He sent a memo in December 2013 to court staff.

From the San Francisco Superior Court dress and grooming standards:
“Employees must maintain a professional, business-like appearance appropriate for an institution that serves the public in the vital functioning of delivering justice.”

“The following is a non-exclusive list providing examples of what is not acceptable…
Tank tops, Cut-off shorts, Beach wear, Warm-ups, Thong-style sandals. “ Other examples given by Michael Yuen were sneakers, jeans, spandex and hoodies.

Some court staff has been written up, some sent home to change and some sent home without pay. The Service Employees International Union, Local 1021 has alleged the dress code is vague and arbitrarily enforced. It filed an unfair labor practice action before the California Labor Relations Board. On Thursday, February 20, 2014, SEIU members, court staff, and others picketed outside the courthouse. This county law library has the state of California  PERB (Public Employment Relations Board) Decisions and related  materials in print from the beginning in 1977. The more recent decisions and older decisions are shelved separately in the library. There is also a website at http://www.perb.ca.gov/.

On the court web site there is also some advice for jurors:
Proper attire is required. Dress as if you were going to a business meeting. Ties and business suits are not required. Please do not wear tank tops, shorts, beach sandals, etc. Temperatures in the Court facilities can vary. Please dress accordingly.”

California judges have a dress code provided by the state legislature. It is in the California Government Code § 68110 Judicial robes; use; style. That statute is supplemented by California Rules of Court, Rule 10.505 Judicial Robes.


Fourth Amendment: Dead or Alive?

Last month, Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and his somewhat notorious law clerk, Stephanie Grace, published an opinion piece for the iPad news app, The Daily.  In their article, “Pulling the Plug on Privacy,” the authors eulogize the demise of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the part of the Bill of Rights that guards against unreasonable searches and seizures.  They argue that each of us had a hand in killing the Amendment by unwittingly revealing information about ourselves to third parties, eliminating the need for officials to obtain search warrants to learn about our activities.  As they write:

[C]onstitutionally speaking, . . . the Fourth Amendment protects only what we reasonably expect to keep private.  One facet of this rule, known as the third party doctrine, is that we don’t have reasonable expectations of privacy in things we’ve already revealed to other people or the public.

They cite, as an example, grocery store club cards that track individuals’ purchases.  Police were able to access this information in order to show that a suspected arsonist had purchased a fire starter. 

But despite this pessimistic forecast from the Ninth Circuit’s preeminent jurist (and clerk), there might still be some life left in the Amendment.  Consider, for example, a Thomson Reuters news article published just yesterday, “A New Law-Enforcement Tool: Facebook Searches.”  This article discusses how law enforcement agencies are increasingly seeking search warrants in order access users’ information.  While this may appear at first as yet another intrusion into our private affairs, it demonstrates that the Fourth Amendment has not yet been made completely obsolete by the third party doctrine: Government officials still need to obtain search warrants before accessing online information that has been made available to others.  So as Mark Twain might have said, “the reports of [the Fourth Amendment’s] death have been greatly exaggerated.”

If you are interested in learning more about search and seizure law, the Alameda County Law Library has numerous well-regarded resources available.  Among the most comprehensive titles on the subject is Professor LaFave’s six-volume treatise.  And for the most current developments, the library also has attorney-turned-novelist James Scott Bell’s Compendium on Searches and Seizures

Soliciting a Solicitor

Many people come to the Alameda County Law Library looking for lawyer referrals.  Because we can’t make such recommendations ourselves, we generally suggest that these patrons contact the Alameda County Bar Association or one of the other referral services.  In other instances patrons want to know our opinions about particular attorneys.  Again, we are unable to express our impressions.  But just because we can’t give our opinions about particular attorneys doesn’t mean that no one else can.  For instance, on the State Bar of California website, you can perform an attorney search to determine if he or she is in good standing and is eligible to practice law.  And on the Avvo website, you are able to see ratings and reviews by former clients.  In fact, there are even resources available for those interested in reading about particular judges.  The Daily Journal publishes judicial profiles and Zagat-style reviews are available in California Courts & Judges.  For instance, the latter publication had this to say about Vaughn Walker, former district judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California:

“[Judge Walker] has a delightful courtroom demeanor.  I just love going to his court.  He’s so entertaining,” said a criminal defense lawyer.  A former federal prosecutor also “always enjoyed being in front of him.”  The ex-prosecutor added, “He has the voice of a judge.  If you want to sound like a judge, you’d want a deep voice, and that’s how he sounds.  It’s very impressive.”  Another interviewee said Judge Walker is “very respectful.”

If you need a lawyer referral, for a nonrefundable fee of $30, the ACBA can arrange a consultation between you and an attorney for up to half an hour.  The fee is waived for personal injury, medical malpractice, sexual harassment, and worker’s compensation cases.  You can contact the Alameda County Bar Association at (501) 302-ACBA (2222).  If you want to read about a particular judge, both publications discussed are available at the Alameda County Law Library.  And if you just happen to be in the mood to write a review, feel free to tell the world about your wonderful experiences at the Alameda County Law Library on Yelp.