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Michigan Supreme Court Votes to Give Judges Greater Authority in Determining Court Dress Code

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Wednesday—the Michigan Supreme Court voted 5-2 to allow judges greater authority over the way witnesses dress in court after a Muslim woman refused to remove her head veil during a small claims case. However, the two dissenters felt that there should be an exception to that rule for clothing worn for religious purposes.

The issue arose in a small claims court in Hamtramck District after the judge asked the Muslim woman to remove her head scarf during a 2006 hearing because he said he needed to be able to see her face to judge her truthfulness. In response, the woman sued the judge. This spurred the Michigan Judges Association and the Michigan District Judges Association to support the court rule allowing judges “reasonable” authority to dictate the way witnesses and parties dress in court—enough so that a judge can identify an individual or determine the candidness of their testimony.

The head veil is grounded in an Islamic religious belief that women should cover their face around men that are not their husband or close male relative. The American Civil Liberties Union had attempted to argue for a religious exception to Michigan Rule of Evidence 611, but the Court ultimately decided otherwise.

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  1. Marcia Ball says:
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    I applaud the Supreme Court for making this decision. I believe if you choose to live in the United States and have the privileges of living here then you should follow our customs. Even though this was a small claims court case, I have had the privilege of sitting on juries in Detroit and in Montgomery county Maryland. As a juror you get lots of information from facial expressions as well as body language.

    I believe that this country was founded on Christian principals and we have lost sight of that too often. I often think the “Muslim” thing is one of convenience,as an excuse not to fully particpate in living here. If you want to cover yourself up go back were it is the custom. If you don’t want to do that then wake up and be one of us!!!