Jan. 6, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — Intellectually, most people want to be egalitarian. In practice, that is another thing. Thus, I had mixed emotions about Noah Feldman’s, Who Needs Black Robes? Not Judges, Bloomberg View (December 29, 2015).
Feldman wrote that there is really no reason for judges to wear black robes. Everyone knows judges are just people, so suggests the author. Therefore, no “uniform” is required.
After much reflection (I could say after much prayer, but I don’t ever make that a practice), I concluded that Feldman is just another brilliant Harvard law professor who is flat wrong. Judges, especially federal judges need to be feared. After all, particularly in the criminal context, we do awful things to real people.
If we dressed like real people the great unwashed would see us as just regular old mean and nasty bureaucrats and that, of course, is true. But, and this is the important qualification, we are majestic in our meanness and nastiness. We solemnly represent the wisdom of the state and the judicial priesthood. So, robes, and especially foreboding black ones, are a requirement.
Period. End of discussion. Well, not quite.
In fact, I think our regalia are not sufficiently grand. What about hats. If clothes make the man (woman), then hats serve as an exclamation mark. As shown above, Justice Scalia wears a cool hat and therefore won’t be confused as just an ordinary crossdresser in a black dress.
In Britain, the last judge to pronounce a death sentence (the UK no longer imposes the death penalty) wore a hat over his wig. Although the hat was small, no larger than a black hanky, it conveyed just the right note of solemnity. After all, hanging focuses the mind and a black hat sharpens the point deliciously so.
Think about how impressive it would be to impose the death sentence using these words while peering over your eye classes and wearing the ever so somber black hat:
Prisoner at the Bar, you have been convicted of the crime of willful murder. The sentence of this Court is that you be taken from this place to a lawful prison, and thence to a place of execution where you shall be hanged by the neck until you are dead. And that your body be afterwards cut down and buried within the precincts of the prison in which you were last confined before execution. And may the Lord have mercy upon your soul. Remove the prisoner.
So, I have come to the conclusion that I need my own judicial head covering. See below. If you still harken for egalitarianism, it is acceptable to call me Comrade Kopf rather than Judge Kopf. Just be damn sure to stand up and bow slightly at the waist when you do.
*Ed. Note: No hats were harmed in the making of this post.