Myrtle Beach Courts Demand a Fashion Upgrade

(Myrtle Beach Sun-News) Leave the short mini skirt, shorts and tank tops behind if you go to court in Myrtle Beach.

Myrtle Beach Municipal Court’s Chief Judge Jennifer Wilson issued an administrative order in July regulating courtroom attire and banning risqué clothing, as well as offensive, ripped and soiled clothing, said Len Marotta, Myrtle Beach’s courtroom security officer.

“Judge Wilson wanted to enhance the dignity and the decorum of the courtroom,” said Marotta, who noted that for years court attendees were allowed to dress casually. “There have been a few people who voiced indignation, but once they understood the message there have been less and less people I’ve had to turn away. It has improved. When you look into the courtroom, you see a difference.”

And perhaps smell a difference, too.

“Some of the court’s ‘guests’ have been underdressed, or wearing soiled clothes, and some of them come to court with strong body odors,” said city spokesman Mark Kruea. “It’s still the beach – we’re not saying you have to wear a tie. Just be mindful that if you have to go to court, some dress regulations must be met.”

Wilson’s order follows dozens of others issued by judges presiding over municipal, civil and circuit courtrooms in the area.

Circuit Court Judge Steven John, the 15th Judicial Circuit’s resident judge, issued a similar order to be enforced by deputies. Horry County officials posted signs displaying the order and what is not proper attire for court at the judicial center in Conway.

“It’s been working well. We have it posted on each floor. Folks come and read it and they go ahead and make the necessary changes,” said Horry County Sheriff Lt Oliver Parmley. “We haven’t had any problems with it. Everyone has been cordial and polite, and it’s working.”

On Tuesday, waiting outside Myrtle Beach’s courtroom for proceedings, Danielle Switzer said she thought such an order regulating courtroom attire was proper.

“I think there’s a certain amount of respect and decorum that’s necessary,” Switzer said. “It’s a courtroom.”

Before bond hearings began Tuesday, Marotta questioned Joseph Fazio about his choice of pants, which were baggy and black and white striped.

Fazio, a local chef, said they were chef pants and he had just left work to attend Tuesday’s proceedings.

“I think you should have a dress code,” Fazio said. “You should be wearing nice clothes.”

But in North Myrtle Beach, City Judge Blake Martin hasn’t issued a written dress code order, nor seen the need to do so, said Pat Dowling, city spokesman. Most court attendees in North Myrtle Beach dress appropriately and if they have sagging pants or are wearing a hat, they are asked to fix those items.

“In general, Judge Martin does not place a great deal of stock in how well dressed one is for court. Instead, he focuses his attention on the nature of their crime, the history of the person before him, their demeanor and their willingness and ability to comprehend the ramifications of the situation they may have placed themselves in,” Dowling said. “This does not mean that another judge in another city would not face legitimate dress code challenges. Judge Martin says that it might be that his general good fortune with courtroom decorum may have something to do with the age of people who visit North Myrtle Beach and the age mix among permanent residents. Myrtle Beach probably attracts more young visitors than North Myrtle Beach, which may lead to more inappropriate generational dress code challenges for a judge in that city.”