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.
recently named in the 2009 edition of Best Lawyer's In America, David Mittleman has been representing seriously injured people since 1985. A partner with Church Wyble PC—a division of Grewal Law PLLC—Mr. Mittleman and his partners focus on medical malpractice, wrongful death, car accidents, slip and falls, nursing home injury, pharmacy/pharmacist negligence and disability claims.