Sunday, July 29, 2012

There is a need for Theatre in Law

There is a reason lawyers in Canada wear robes in Superior Court.  There is a reason judges wear robes almost everywhere in the Common Law world.

The reason is to give the Law (and note the capital `L`) a sense of majesty and dignity.

It may seem like a small point, but the legal system depnds very much on people obeying rulings without significant enforcement.  If large parts of society simply ignored the law the system would fail.  The total number of Sheriffs and police is trivial compared to the population as a whole -- they enforce court orders easily because almost everyone obeys court orders without the need to enforce.

The theatre of the Law explains why so many legal systems have a religious component -- that component gives the specific legal system a power and force that is far beyond that of mere rules.  Ignoring theological questions, would the secular aspects of Sharia Law (no matter how excellent and well suited for the culture in which it arose) be followed today if it were merely a set of rules and did not spring from the Qur'an and Sunnah? To ask the question is to answer the question.

This explains the need for dignified Courthouses, lawyers who behave with civility and the need for judges' comportment to be at all times above reproach.  Yes, Courthouses may look good and still have unfair trials.  There are (sadly but it's true) lawyers who speak politely and are crooked and there are inevitably some (hopefully very few) judges who are hypocrites -- we live in an imperfect world -- but we have to try to do justice and be seen to have justice done.


Anonymous said...

why do English Judges and Barristers & Solicitors wear wigs, as well as robes? But wigs?

James C Morton said...

Well that's a mystery! Probably tradition -- the question is why we don't!