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A Judge of Many Colors

September 18, 1990

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) _ Flowing black robes have no place in the courtroom of Circuit Judge John Ashworth.

In Raleigh County Circuit Court, Ashworth wears a red robe at Christmastime, for weddings and occasionally, as he puts it, ″just for the devilment of it.″

But his favorite robe is electric-blue.

″I really don’t like a black robe,″ he said. ″Why should you wear a black robe when you have so many other colors to choose from?″

His colorful taste extends to his regular wardrobe. He recently came to work in a lilac suit with matching suspenders and bow tie.

He also favors hats, including a straw hat that he rarely is seen without during the spring and summer.

″I usually remember to wear a hat wherever I go,″ said Ashworth, who is known to friends as ″the Mad Hatter.″

″I’ve got about 15 straw hats, three derbies, felt hats, wool caps and even a hat from Australia,″ he said.

Lawyers say Ashworth’s eccentricity livens up his courtroom.

″It adds a little color to the courtroom,″ Beckley lawyer John Wootin said. ″I think it’s a nice change.″

Ashworth does own a black robe, but not the kind the hangs to the floor.

″I had the sleeves altered so they’re not in my way, and the bottom shortened,″ he said. ″I like my sawed-off one very much. ... It can’t get caught in my chair.″

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