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LSK dismisses criticisms on new dress code

By - | Updated Fri, January 25th 2013 at 00:00 GMT +3

By Isaiah Lucheli

The revised dress code for lawyers has raised mixed reaction, but Law Society of Kenya (LSK) says it was long overdue.

LSK CEO Apollo Mboya said the society had not reviewed dress code for advocates for over three decades, which had seen cases of lawyers dressing as they desired.

“There have been cases of counsel putting on T-shirts with huge banners and jeans on Fridays claiming that it was a dress-down day. This has necessitated the review of the dress code, which has been in place since the 1980s,” said Mboya.

In recent incidents in courts, judges have refused to hear lawyers for being ‘indecently’ dressed while others have been reprimanded for failing to observe the dress code.

Recently, High Court Judge Isaac Lenaola refused to hear a lawyer in court after he appeared before him without a necktie on a Friday and his efforts to explain that it was a Judiciary dress-down day was rejected.

The lawyer, who had a matter listed on the case list, had to go in search of a necktie and it is only after he got it that he was allowed to address the court.

The judge told the court it was important for lawyers to observe their dress code, as this distinguished them from litigants or accused. An LSK council member last month also got himself in trouble after he appeared before Court of Appeal judges and the bench reprimanded him for not being properly dressed.

Overtaken by events

Appellate Judges Onyango Otieno and Wanjiru Karanja emphasised the importance of observing the dress code when appearing in court. He was, however, allowed to address the court. Mboya said LSK council had held meetings and discussed at length on importance of reviewing the dress code to get rid of the old and outdated code that was in place.

He said the need to revise the dress code was necessitated by the pronouncement by the Chief Justice, which had been misconstrued by many lawyers to mean that one can wear what he or she desired. Mboya added LSK council had discussed the issue and agreed that it was important the dress code be enforced and added that those who failed to adhere to it would be committing professional misconduct. Federation for Women lawyers (Fida) supported the new dress code and explained that it was not discriminatory to women as some individuals were claiming.

Fida chairperson Ruth Aura explained that the law society was only emphasising what lawyers had been taught in law school on how to dress.

She, however, added that the issue to debate is, should African attire be allowed in court? But was quick to add that it would be difficult to regulate.

However, some female said they would challenge decision in court as dressing as they desired was their constitutional right.