Trials & Litigation

Judge nixes $50 contempt fine for saggy pants worn by attendee at court hearing


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An earlier argument by a chief Pennsylvania public defender that an 18-year-old’s saggy pants revealed gym shorts rather than underwear apparently didn’t carry the day during a contempt appeal Thursday.

But Adam Dennis nonetheless won a dismissal of the state district court case, as well as $50 fine, represented for free by a private practitioner, the Morning Call reports.

Although sympathetic to District Judge Wayne Maura’s efforts to maintain decorum in the Allentown courtroom at issue, Lehigh Court of Common Pleas Judge William E. Ford sided with defense attorney Gavin Holihan. He argued that legal requirements of an intentional and substantial disruption of judicial proceedings weren’t satisfied by Dennis’ in-court attire on May 7. Dennis was in district court that day to attend a hearing involving a relative.

While Maura has a sign on the door to his chambers that states “Pull your pants up!” the shared Allentown courtroom has no such sign, the Express-Times reports.

At a district court hearing before Maura on the contempt citation in late May, Dennis was then represented by chief Lehigh County public defender Kimberly Makoul, who made the gym shorts argument, among others.

Maura testified Thursday that on May 7, he gave Dennis a chance to leave the courtroom and correct his appearance, but he admitted he didn’t expressly tell him to pull up his pants, according to the two articles. Dennis apparently attempted to do what was required, but Maura said he saw the youth’s pants drooping again as he exited the courtroom at the conclusion of the hearing, exposing a layer of thin material.

“On behalf of the citizens, on behalf of the integrity of the court, I’m obliged to do something,” Maura told Ford. “Any time my attention is taken away from my judicial duties, that’s a problem.”

At a June 9 sentencing hearing, Maura imposed a $50 fine on Dennis.

Holihan, who told the Morning Call he took the appeal pro bono because he considers the matter important, had a different perspective:

“The only person who disrupted court that day was Mr. Maura, when he called this young man before the court and made him spin around, then had him escorted out by sheriff’s deputies,” the attorney told Ford.

During Thursday’s appellate hearing, Ford focused on what happened in court, apparently determining that there had not been a sufficient disruption in the proceedings to warrant the contempt finding and fine.

Maura declined to comment when contacted by the Express-Times.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Judge fines man $50 for saggy pants despite lawyer’s claim they revealed gym shorts”

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