Phillip Williams might have seen the sign.
It was hanging off the door Williams used to enter Courtroom 4D. “Pull your pants up and tuck in your shirts,” it said in Comic Sans. “If you are not dressed appropriately your case WILL NOT BE HEARD…”
If he saw the sign, he didn’t follow its rules. When his turn came to face District Court Judge Brian Wilks, Williams ambled to the center of the room, a pink sweatshirt hanging untucked on his lanky frame, boxers peeking over his jeans.
The bailiff took one look at Williams and heaved a long, loud sigh.
“Out,” he grumbled, gesturing for Williams to leave the courtroom, fix his appearance, and then return. Williams gave a half shrug, grabbing distractedly at his unfastened red belt and walking back into the hallway.
When Williams strolled back in, he’d fulfilled half the requirements on the sign: the red belt was tighter around his waist, the boxers now safely tucked beneath jeans. “Straight?” he asked.
The bailiff wasn’t satisfied.
“OUT!” he shouted at Williams, directing him back into the hallway, eyes wide in disbelief. “Tuck the sweatshirt!”
The courtroom erupted in giggles. Judge Wilks rested his head on his knuckles.
“Ahh,” Williams turned around for his second try, stumbling to the door of the courtroom as he shoved his pink sweatshirt into his jeans. He returned to the dias looking uncomfortable, a stray rumple of sweatshirt spilling over his belt.
The courtroom chuckles subsided as Judge Wilks leveled his gaze at Williams, who rocked from foot to foot, waiting for his scolding.
“Man!” the judge suddenly exclaimed. “This is no fashion statement!”
Williams stopped rocking.
“I guarantee you, if you see me not in this robe, off this bench, I won’t have my shirt tucked in!” the Judge joked. “Guarantee! ‘Cause it’s not cool!”
There came the wave of giggles again – muffled laughs into shirt collars, hearty guffaws from the back, and even a snort from Williams’ attorney.
But the judge said there was a good reason for the rule on courtroom attire.
“The climate we live in these days… you never can tell what people got,” he said. “I’ve watched the safety video, and no lie – a gentleman as slim as you are, right? He had on a sweatshirt, and he pulled out about 19 guns and knives from around his waist. He even had a shotgun down his pants!”
At that image, two ladies in the front bursted into laughter, shoulder-to-shoulder in chuckles.
“See, if something pops off in this courtroom, I can dive behind my desk,” the Judge mimed bending over. “But that’s not gonna protect you all
“My job, and the deputies’ job, is to protect you. And to protect everybody that, unfortunately, has to come into this courtroom.
Back to business. “So,” he turned to look at Williams, “This is a motion to continue?”
Elsewhere in the courtroom, several other defendants waiting their turn before the judge quickly but quietly tucked in their shirts, sweatshirts and jackets.