Sacramento Judge Gives ‘Time-out’ to Public Defender, Requires Him to Change Into ‘Courtroom Attire’

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By Anna Okada

SACRAMENTO – In Sacramento County Superior Court here Thursday morning, as Assistant Public Defender Corey Thornhill explained that he was having trouble getting in contact with his client, Judge Geoffrey Goodman interrupted, and asked Thornhill to leave the call and return in “courtroom attire.”

Thornhill first appeared in a long-sleeved blue shirt for the court session conducted over Zoom, a video-conferencing platform used by the court during the COVID-19 crisis. But, apparently, the shirt was not good enough.

A few minutes into the case, Goodman quizzed Thornhill, “Are you at home? Well, 15 minutes would give you time to dress for court. So why don’t you do that?”

Thornhill quickly apologized. Goodman continued, saying, “We’re in court. I’ll recall the case when you wear courtroom attire.” Thornhill later returned to the court session with a change in outfit.

Under the COVID-19 pandemic, many workplaces have transitioned to a virtual platform, and courts are no exception. In Sacramento, courts closed their normal in-person operations on March 20, and have since been conducting all hearings but trials—which have just now begun as in-person operations—on Zoom.

In the absence of colleagues and the formal workplace, the definition of workplace attire has drastically changed for many who work from home.

Just a few weeks ago, in another Sacramento courtroom, Attorney Jonathan Gonzales appeared shirtless in a court session before being asked by a judge, “Do you have a shirt?” Working from home has clearly loosened up professionals in other fields, too.

In April, Will Reeve, an ABC News correspondent, reported on a segment from home wearing a dress shirt and blazer—but no pants. Reeve later advised humorously, “A headline reminder: For anyone who’s using Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, anything with a camera, make sure you frame your shot.”

Despite the relaxed atmosphere of working from home that professionals seem to be taking advantage of, Judge Goodman, and maybe a few other judges, are determined to keep the same formalities for in-person court and virtual court.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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