Stove-pipe. Comfort fit. Bell-bottoms. Hip-huggers. Flares.
Natural cut. Boot cut. Slim cut.
“Everything comes and goes,”
Joni Mitchell sang, “marked by
lovers and styles of clothes.”
Trousers included, of course. So
why do aging lawmakers and law
enforcers get so worked up about
It seems to be men, particularly,
championing legislation against
said fashion or enforcing said
“Baggy Pants bills,” or charging
kids who wear them with indecent
exposure. The most recent notorious case involves a female police
officer, but in a sympathetic role.
A couple of years ago, Officer
Kara Breci and her partner were
patrolling a part of St. Paul,
Minn., infamous for drug dealing.
They noticed two men sitting in a
car parked at a White Castle res-
taurant. The men weren’t eating.
A third man, also food-bereft,
came up to the car and got into
the back seat. There, according to
Judge Kevin Ross of the Minne-
sota Court of Appeals, he “began
to look down at his lap. As the
officers walked to the car they saw
the rear occupant drop a plastic
bag to the floor. They asked the
man what the bag contained, and
he replied, ‘Some weed.’”
The police officers ordered the
men out of the car. When the
driver, Frank Wiggins, obeyed
Breci’s order to raise his hands, his
baggy pants dropped to his knees.
Breci had intended to frisk Wig-
gins for weapons, but in pulling up
his trousers, she just meant to
“help him get his pants into a
OFF THE RECORD
of him bemoaning this—“Why
can’t I find my balls bill?”—as
he drapes his neck with a big
pair of plush, stuffed ones given
him by a legislative intern.
decent position.” At the same time
she felt in them what she thought
might be a weapon. She discovered
a .380 pistol in Wiggins’s pocket
and charged him with possession
of a firearm by an ineligible person.
Wiggins had priors for violent
crime. At trial, he moved to suppress the gun evidence, arguing
that it was the product of an
illegal search, but the district
court dismissed the motion and
convicted him. There was no
search, the court said. Breci
didn’t let Wiggins pull up his own
pants because of reasonable concerns for her own safety. She
found the gun accidentally.
In a judgment released this
Sept. 14, the appeals court agreed.
“Even assuming Wiggins intended
his pants to sag somewhat,” Judge
Ross noted for the panel, “the dis-
trict court aptly construed the
knee-level positioning as
‘extreme.’” Maybe Breci meant to
afford Wiggins “a bit of dignity,”
Judge Ross reasoned. “Or perhaps
she wanted to avoid the risk of
contacting his genitalia.” The
judge added that, as his decision
was limited to the specific facts of
the case, he was “confident that
our opinion will not be miscon-
strued to suggest that an officer
can freely meddle with a person’s
clothes to the refrain, ‘Pants on
the ground, pants on the ground.’ ”
Mind you, that hasn’t stopped
such interventions in the past,
minus the singing. A few months
before the Wiggins arrest, a cir-
cuit judge declared a baggy-pants
law in Riviera Beach, Fla., uncon-
stitutional. The accused, 17-year-
old Julius Hart, had been riding
his bike with four or five inches of
his boxer shorts showing. Even
though the penalty on first baggy-
pants offence was limited to a fine
or community service, Hart had
spent the night in jail.
offend public order and decency.
Then again, when it comes to
the foolishness component, there
is objective evidence, not just opinion. In 2007, burglars stole about
US$10,000 worth of stereo equipment from a Miami store. The
owner, Asdel Vasquez, was able to
identify one of them through video
surveillance of the fellow’s bare
behind. A tape showed that the
man kept losing his pants as he
looted Vasquez’s store.
Then there is the public decency
campaign of Lionel Spruill. In
“droopy drawers bill”),
in 2008 he took on
another fashion accessory: replica testicles
hanging from automobiles.
were selling for
$24.95, and Spruill contended
their size increased with their
popularity. John Saller, of www.
bullsball.com, told the Virginia
Pilot he offered a selection from
two-and-a-half to 10 inches in
circumference, and that he
had sold thousands of rubber testicles to date.
Spruill’s bill set a maximum fine of $250 per
offence, but it, too,
seems to have died on
the order paper. At
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PETER BONO FOR THE LAWYERS WEEKLY
Jeffrey Miller is a writer, freelance translator (French-English),
and an adjunct professor of law
and literature in the law faculty of
the University of Western Ontario.
His latest book is Murder on the
Rebound, a comic novel set in the
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Re: “The long-gun registry: a matter of civilization,” The Lawyers
Weekly, Sept. 17
Mr. Miller asks:
“Imagine you are a police offi-
cer. The dispatcher tells you
someone on Main Street heard
loud, unusual noises coming
from the house next door.
Wouldn’t you like to know what
firearms are on site?”
Well, I guess I would.
However, I suspect my career
in the constabulary would come to
an unfortunate sticky end pretty
quickly if I made a habit of taking
the dispatcher’s “the gun registry
shows no firearms at this site”
assurance as being the authorita-
tive statement as to the presence
or absence of firearms in any given
situation, and walked in to said
situation with my guard down.
Community Legal Aid
University of Windsor
Letters to the Editor should be
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Include name, address and daytime
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The Honorable Louise Otis will be joining the
Faculty of Law at McGill University
The Honorable Louise Otis will be joining the Faculty of Law at McGill University on
September 7, 2010 as a Senior Boulton Fellow. Ms. Otis will teach various facets
of the mediation process and will part take in faculty activities related to con;ict
Louise Otis is a retired Justice of the Quebec Court of
Appeal where she spearheaded the introduction of judicial
mediation. She currently works as a civil and commercial
mediator and arbitrator at the Canadian and international
She is Deputy Judge at the Administrative Tribunal of the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
(OECD). She is a Distinguished Fellow of the International
Academy of Mediators (IAM) which sets the standards and
quali;cations of professional mediators for commercial
She is President of the International Conference on Mediation for Justice (ICMJ).
She is a Guest Researcher at the International Studies Center of the University of
Montreal (CERIUM) in collaboration with the Réseau francophone de recherches
sur les opérations de paix (ROP).