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Except in those cases where a judge's impartiality might be reasonably questioned, he must exercise his judicial function. Whether a judge should recuse himself if his or her impartiality might reasonably be questioned, places disqualification within the conscience of the judge and within his or her discretion.
Attorney Tom Cherryhomes appeared in Judge Shuler’s courtroom wearing an inappropriate attire, with a bandana as his tie. The judge asked Cherryhomes about his attire, noting that they had previously discussed appropriate dress for his courtroom, as outlined in the local rules for the Fifth Judicial District. Cherryhomes reasoned that he could not wear a jacket as his arm continued to heal from an injury. He also said that he was wearing a tie, and referred to a book on nineteenth century western wear and a dictionary definition of "tie," which he had brought with him. The judge disagreed with Cherryhomes’ interpretation of the meaning of the local rules’ requirement of a tie, and found Cherryhomes in contempt, fining him $ 50. Cherryhomes requested a hearing, which the judge granted. After the hearing, the judge still found Cherryhomes in contempt, fining him $ 50. On appeal, Cherryhomes argued that his dress caused no disruption, that the judge required him to comply with a unique and personal interpretation of the local rule, and that the judge's ruling infringed defendant's First Amendment right of free expression.
Under the circumstances, was it error for the trial court judge to hold the attorney in contempt because of the latter’s clothing?
Because the evidence indicated that defendant violated a court order, the district court had the discretion to exercise its inherent power to issue a contempt sanction to preserve its authority and maintain respect for the courts and the court concluded that no abuse of discretion occurred. The court noted that defendant was required to obey the order, even if it was subject to reversal on constitutional grounds. Moreover, the district court judge's refusal to recuse himself was not an abuse of discretion.