Tuesday, November 29, 2022 | Back issues
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Fashionable Law

Aren't there enough things already that lawyers to have to do to avoid malpractice?

The required skill set seems to get larger all the time.

Law firms may now need fashion sense.

Or at least a skilled in-house cosmetician.

You probably heard the news report last week: a study at Cornell University came up with the stunning conclusion that unattractive defendants are 22% more likely to be convicted and given longer sentences than hot defendants.

After all, it's kind of hard to hook up with the defendant after court if he or she has been carted off to jail.

What was left out of the news reports was the impact this has on the legal profession - if you want to zealously represent your client, you're going to have to make him/her look good.

If you let that client enter the courtroom with uncombed hair, you may be guilty of malpractice.

This is not as simple as it sounds. After all, there is no precise definition of attractiveness. What may appeal to some jurors - say an enhanced body part - may turn off other jurors.

And could your client be too attractive? Ms. America might appeal to guy jurors, but will women jurors hate her?

So the job for the attorney assigned to client attractiveness has to begin with jury selection.

Some possible questions for the prospective jurors:

"Do you like men with large, um, feet?"

"Are blondes more fun?"

"Have you ever had a fantasy involving a criminal defendant?"

If you have a particularly ugly client and plastic surgery is not feasible, consider a fashion makeover. Even if an orange jumpsuit is required courtroom attire, there's no reason it can't be spruced up with a bow tie or some hair extensions.

(NOTE TO SELF: Prepare treatment for "What Not To Wear - The Courtroom Edition.")

If all else fails, petition the court to allow your client to sit behind a dressing screen. It's in the interest of justice.

By the way, I'm predicting class actions on behalf of ugly defendants. You read it here first.

STINKIN' BADGES. I'm not quite sure what to make of this but take a look, if you have some spare time, at a U. S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling called Dickerson v. Napolitano. There are a couple of odd things there.

The first is the reason for the litigation. It seems that federal and New York City

enforcement types decided to implement something called "Operation Stinking Badges" in which they arrested people coming into federal buildings with objects "resembling" police badges.

OK. Fair enough. People shouldn't be using fake badges to go where they shouldn't.

But instead of just taking the badges away at the door, they arrested the object carriers and threw them in jail whether they meant to use the badges or not.

In fact, people were jailed for a day and then just let go.

Apparently the goal was to make people as angry as possible.

Oddity Number Two: Footnote 1 in the ruling cites YouTube and provides a link.

It won't be long before we'll be seeing Facebook in appellate footnotes.

Oddity Number Three: the "operation" was named after a quote from "The Treasure of Sierra Madre" about "stinkin' badges," not "stinking badges."

Law enforcement is just way too uptight.

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