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Wear slacks to court and go to jail

Wear slacks to court and go to jail

Photos above: On left, Helen Hulick poses in the slacks she wore to court. When she wore slacks to court again, Hulick was held in contempt, sent to jail and issued a dress. On right, Hulick and her attorney William Katz and notary Jeanette Dennis work on getting her released. Credits: Andrew H. Arnott, left photo, and Gordon Wallace, right photo. Both images from the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive/UCLA.

On Nov. 9, 1938, Helen Hulick, 28, wore slacks during a court appearance to testify against two men. Her case was rescheduled and Hullick was asked by Judge Arthur S. Guerin to next time wear a dress.

Hulick was quoted in the Nov. 10, 1938, Los Angeles Times saying, “You tell the judge I will stand on my rights. If he orders me to change into a dress I won’t do it. I like slacks. They’re comfortable.”

After Hulick’s next court appearance, the Nov. 15, 1938, Los Angeles Times reported:

In a scathing denunciation of slacks – which he prosaically termed pants–as courtroom attire for women, Municipal Judge Arthur S. Guerin yesterday again forbade Helen Hulick, 28, kindergarten teacher, to testify as a witness while dressed in a green and orange leisure attire.

Miss Hulick, who Thursday was ordered to return to court in a dress, was called to testify by Dep. Dist. Atty. Russell Broker against two [men] accused of burglarizing her home.

After she was sworn in as a witness, Judge Guerin stopped the proceedings and declared:

“The last time you were in this court dressed as you are now and reclining on your neck on the back of your chair, you drew more attention from spectators, prisoners and court attaches than the legal business at hand. You were requested to return in garb acceptable to courtroom procedure.

“Today you come back dressed in pants and openly defying the court and its duties to conduct judicial proceedings in an orderly manner. It’s time a decision was reached on this matter and on the power the court has to maintain what it considers orderly conduct.

“The court hereby orders and directs you to return tomorrow in accepted dress. If you insist on wearing slacks again you will be prevented from testifying because that would hinder the administration of justice. But be prepared to be punished according to law for contempt of court.”

Slack-shrouded Miss Hulick was accompanied by Attorney William Katz, who carried four heavy volumes of citations to appear in whatever dress she chose.

“Listen,” said the young woman, “I’ve worn slacks since I was 15. I don’t own a dress except a formal. If he wants me to appear in a formal gown that’s okay with me.

“I’ll come back in slacks and if he puts me in jail I hope it will help to free women forever of anti-slackism.”

The next day Hulick showed up in slacks. Judge Guerin beld her in contempt. Given a five-day sentence, Hulick was sent to jail.

The Los Angeles Times reported that during booking, “after being divested of her favorite garment by a jail matron and attired in a prison denim dress, Miss Hulick was released on her own recognizance after her attorney, William Katz, obtained a writ of habeas corpus and declared he would carry the matter to the Appellate Court.”

A Nov. 19, 1938, Los Angeles Times article reported that Judge Guerin’s contempt citation was overturned by the Appellate Division during a habeas corpus hearing. Hulick was free to wear slacks to court.

Of course, Hulick dressed up for a Jan. 17, 1939, followup court appearance – picture below.

Jan. 17, 1939: Helen Hulick, kindergarten teacher, wearing a dress, ready to testify against burglary suspects. She was held in contempt when she showed up to testify wearing slacks. This photo was published in the Jan. 18, 1939, Los Angeles Times. Credit: Gordon Wallace/Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive/UCLA

Judge Arthur S. Guerin passed away in 1962. After the above 1939 photo, there are no further mentions of Helen Hulick in the Los Angeles Times archives.

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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1 Comment

  1. February 27, 2015, 1:33 pm

    This seems crazy to me

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