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Lawyers may wear robes in courtroom

All officials in tribunal courts, both bar and bench, may now wear robes during trials, in an attempt to maintain a formal atmosphere and instill pride and esteem in attorneys, said the Seoul Bar Association on Sunday.

In order to test the waters, the association plans to have its members wear the robes during opening ceremonies for law practice and other events, eventually leading to use by lawyers in trial.

This will be the first time robes will be produced for lawyers since a similar clause was erased from the Supreme Court rules in 1966. As of now, only judges and prosecutors wear robes in the courtroom.

There have been calls from some lawyers, asking that they be given robes so that they may be seen to hold arguments on equal footing with their government counterparts who already wear robes.

On the opposite side of the coin, there have been cries against the robes saying that the “concept is outdated and the use of the robes is uncomfortable.”

The association has already placed orders to the same manufacturer that makes the robes for judges and prosecutors. Some 50 samples will be produced before a design is decided through discussions.

“We believe that neat attire will help strengthen the sense of obligation for lawyers and raise their pride in their duty to the common welfare,” said an association official.

“There has also been criticism that some lawyers have been lowering the court’s authority through inappropriate attire,” he said.

The official added that they decided to hold a trial period for wearing the robes to gather opinions from those who may be unfamiliar and against the robes, and promote the pros to member lawyers.

Reactions have also been positive from Supreme Court officials.

“There hasn’t been any official debate on the matter, but we have no reason to believe there will be any big objections against dressing formally,” said a court administration official.

By Robert Lee (robert@heraldcorp.com)
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