‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ Fact Check: Did Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin Really Wear Judge Robes to Court?

Judge Julius J. Hoffman was strict about courtroom decorum

(Spoiler alert: Do not read on if you haven’t seen “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”)

In Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong) appeared in court wearing flowing black judge’s robes to taunt the judge. Did this really happen, though?

Yes, it did. During the five-month trial of the Chicago 7, who were charged with conspiracy and inciting to riot regarding anti-Vietnam War protests during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, Hoffman, Rubin, and the other five defendants (David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines and Lee Weiner), as well as their attorney William Kunstler, disregarded all decorum of a courtroom from the very beginning, according to PBS.

Hoffman and Rubin did wear judge’s robes to the trial one day, according to PBS. When Judge Hoffman (no relation to Abbie) ordered them to remove the robes, they complied, revealing Chicago police uniforms underneath. The Chicago Tribune reported that Hoffman trod upon his discarded robe, but the outlet made no mention of police uniforms. The Constitutional Rights Foundation said they indeed removed their robes and wiped their feet with it.

Judge Julius J. Hoffman was known for his strict courtroom decorum and stiff sentences, according to the Constitutional Rights Foundation, while the defendants took the opportunity to taunt and bait the Judge.

Slate Magazine reported that most of Abbie Hoffman’s courtroom antics weren’t even shown in the film. Hoffman did a headstand on a table, for example. The New York Times reported that he told the Judge: “Shande fur de Goyim” [Disgrace for the Gentiles], and would often call him “Julie” instead of Julius.

But Hoffman wasn’t the only one who defied courtroom decorum. According to the Times, Rubin said to the judge, “You’re the laughing stock of the world. Every kid in the world hates you because they know what you represent. You are synonymous with Adolf Hitler. Adolf Hitler equals Julius Hitler.”

Froines said in a MediaBurn video that Hoffman was extremely smart and that all his pranks were well thought out and strategic.

Of course, Judge Hoffman cited all defendants plus their lawyers for numerous contempts of court, imposing sentences up to four years. These were later retried by a different judge, who found Dellinger, Rubin, Hoffman and Kunstler guilty of some charges, but never sentenced them.