Reporter booted from court for bare shoulders

Friday , June 06, 2014 - 5:10 PM

UPDATE: Since the original printing of this article it has gained national attention. News stories have been reported by:

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Utah reporter barred from courthouse for wearing tank top

HUFFINGTON POST Female Reporter Barred From Court For The Crime Of Having Bare Shoulders

ROMENESKO BARE SHOULDERS GET A UTAH REPORTER KICKED OUT OF COURT

MUCKRACK Reporter booted from court for bare shoulders

THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE More skin in the game. Bare shoulders in Utah continue to draw attention

JEZEBEL Reporter Kicked Out of Utah Courtroom For Her Slutty Bare Shoulders

OPPOSING VIEWS This Female Reporter Wasn't Allowed In Court Because Of The Way She Was Dressed 

KSL Bailiff asks reporter to cover shoulders before entering Ogden courthouse

KUTV2NEWS Dress Code Prohibits Reporter From Entering Courtroom

Apparently, a security guard at Ogden’s 2nd District Court is either a Wasatch High graduate, or a former administrator at the school.

You probably know the story by now about the school. Some students were shocked to notice that their yearbook photos had been altered without their permission to comply with the Heber City school’s dress code. One student in particular had sleeves added via Photoshop to cover her bare shoulders.

I guess 2nd District Court has the same dress policy.

Here is what happened:

On Tuesday, new justice reporter Morgan Briesmaster went to court to cover a case along with fellow reporter Ben Lockhart. As they proceeded through security, Morgan was told that she wouldn’t be allowed in the courtroom wearing a sleeveless top.

Now, she wasn’t wearing a halter top or bikini piece. As you can see from the accompanying photo, she was wearing a nice sleeveless blouse that many professional women wear on a hot summer’s day. This would be proper attire anywhere, except, I guess, at Wasatch High and Ogden’s 2nd District Court.

Morgan had to wait in the lobby while Ben covered a court session because they had driven together in Ben’s car. During a break, they rushed back to the office to look for something to cover Morgan’s offending shoulders.

All they could find was Ben’s heavy Standard-Examiner winter coat. So Morgan put that on and they returned to the courthouse.

Here’s what Morgan said happened next:

“Upon walking inside, we were once again greeted by security. Only this time they said, ‘It’s pretty warm outside to be wearing a jacket.’ To which I said, ‘It sure is.’ I sat in the courtroom for two hours with Lockhart’s jacket on; not once was it removed.”

I thought about writing a letter of protest, but I couldn’t stop laughing. Besides, we know that judges and court bailiffs can pretty much set whatever rules they want for people in the courtroom.

Instead, for future reference, we decided to ask for clarification as to what is considered the court’s dress policy.

State courts public information officer Nancy Volmer said, in general, shorts, hats, halter tops and tank tops are frowned upon in court. And there are signs in some courtrooms indicating a dress code is enforced.

However, she was surprised our reporter was turned away for her attire.

“Typically, the bailiffs in the courtroom are the ones to enforce any dress code,” Volmer said in an email to Digital Editor Cimaron Neugebauer. “This sounds very unusual. I’ll let the court executive know about the situation and ask him to talk with the security guards at the screening area to clarify procedures.”

When Cimaron asked what he should tell Morgan in the meantime, Volmer replied, “For now, I suggest she not wear sleeveless tops.”

Cimaron, and other court reporters, have indicated they have seen numerous people -- including defendants -- wearing worse than what Morgan had on Tuesday. So, we aren’t sure why she was singled out. We couldn’t find any courthouse dress code published anywhere online.

Morgan is new to the justice beat, so naturally she doesn’t want to make a big deal out of this.

“I sincerely respect the security of the Weber County courthouse and appreciate their diligent work,” she told me.

However, any time a reporter is prevented by authorities from doing their job, it becomes a concern.

In this case, we just want to know the rules ahead of time, and hope they are enforced in a consistent manner. Unlike administrators at Wasatch High, we can’t just paint capped sleeves on our reporters.

Andy Howell is executive editor. He can be reached at 801-625-4210 or ahowell@standard.net.

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