Time For Judges to Ditch Robes

Time for judges to ditch black robes and start looking like they work in the modern
era like the rest of us. Their mystery is long gone, they are just a bunch of people trying to do an honest job. Sometimes they make good decisions, sometimes they make decisions that suck.

A little spring cleaning in the courts wouldn't go astray

By Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun April 25, 2009

Ladies and gentlemen of the bench and bar, this spring give your closet a break and throw out those funeral choir-gown robes.
Those black silk and linen vestments are not quaint; they’re condescending. They’re an anachronism that should have gone the way of cowls, hoods and horsehair wigs.

They darkly accentuate the worst priestly aspects of the legal world — archaic garb better suited to some shadowy back-room Masonic rite than public proceedings.
It’s supposed to be “Here comes da judge,” not here comes The Da Vinci Code.
Consider the history of judicial attire, which traces its roots to attempts by judges to imitate nobles whose power they initially dispensed and later embodied.
The ecclesiastical influence is obvious, though English fashion was apparently borrowed from the dress of French judges who stole their array from 13th-century swordsmen, the chevaliers d’epee.

Through the ages, people have considered it vital to don special garments as a means of preserving the dignity of the law. A robe, the experts say, can evoke detached dignity that military uniform or royal attire cannot.

Even countries such as Austria, France, Germany and Scandinavia, which abandoned such snobby raiment with the dawn of “enlightened” modernity, later re-embraced the cult of baroque brocade. They were wrong to backslide, never mind the rococo backstitching.

Judges and lawyers perk up your ears: The world has changed and some professionals even enjoy an annual “Jeans Day.”

It is time the courts stopped looking like churches peopled by Dickensian characters speaking in a foreign tongue. It is time for reform, time to doff the dark and foreboding demeanor of Victorian times and reflect the 21st century’s sunnier times.

By all means, keep those morbid robes in the attic for a special occasional — the retirement of a judge or notable colleague, a convocation or commemoration.
But keep them out of the courtrooms where they contribute to the palpable sense that justice is the purview of professions, not the public.
Judges and lawyers — toss off your robes: you have nothing to lose but dry-cleaning bills.

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When ever I think of judges, I think of the final scene in the movie The Wall, with the fat judge prancing about on skinny legs pronouncing, "I sentence you to be exposed before your peers. Tear down the Wall!"

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