A Windsor, Ont., criminal lawyer who was "bullied and humiliated" by a provincial court judge for inappropriate courtroom attire said yesterday that she has been inundated with public support.
"I suppose what I find so overwhelming is the public support throughout the country, whether it be from colleagues who practise law or the general public," Laura Joy said in an interview.
One of those colleagues is Toronto lawyer Katrina Mulligan, a director of the Criminal Lawyers Association, who said: "I think it's outrageous. Geez, it's not a plunging neckline by any means and I just don't get it."
Another is Ms. Joy's husband, Windsor-St.Clair MPP and Liberal House Leader Dwight Duncan, from whom she is separated.
"I'm very proud of her," he said. "She's a top-notch lawyer and a credit to her profession. I don't know what the judge was thinking, but it was very regrettable."
Lawyers at Toronto's Old City Hall courthouse were equally outraged.
"There's nothing wrong with being feminine in the workplace as long as your conduct is professional," said lawyer Cheryl Robb, who says she wears clothes similar to Ms. Joy's pantsuit in court.
Ms. Joy, who runs what she calls a high-volume criminal practice, said that she will be consulting members of her firm to decide whether to lodge a complaint against Ontario Court Judge Micheline Rawlins, who told her during a court appearance Monday that she should change her clothes.
She was appearing before Judge Rawlins in provincial court, where lawyers are not required to wear robes, in a case where her client was to plead guilty to assault.
Ms. Joy was wearing a dark jacket over a white, V-necked, long-sleeved shirt and loose pants, an outfit she has worn before other judges without incident.
According to her account, supported by Windsor media reports, the judge objected to her attire but declined to explain why.
"You've seen the photo," Ms. Joy said. "I also had slacks on. They were long slacks, they were very loose-fitting slacks. She rebuked me in a public court, humiliated me and I was not going to go home and change my clothes."
Ms. Joy said she tried several times, without avail, to get Judge Rawlins to spell out her objections. At one point, Judge Rawlins said, "I cannot hear you, Ms. Joy. You know what's wrong. Go and read the dress code." The dress code is a memo issued by Judge Rawlins, the administrative judge for Windsor's Ontario Court, that simply says lawyers shall appear in "conservative clothing."
In the interview, Ms. Joy said she suspected that her neckline was objectionable. "It is a V-neck but I was not showing any breast and I don't have large breasts, quite frankly."
Later yesterday Judge Rawlins told a Windsor Star reporter "they don't have to look at my cleavage. I don't have to look at theirs."
Ms. Joy, 39, who was called to the bar in 1992, said that when Judge Rawlins declined to be specific she put her shirt on backward so that the neckline was at her collarbone.
What was even more troubling, Ms. Joy said, was that Judge Rawlins then postponed the case and said the record would show that it could not proceed because of lack of counsel.