Why do British lawyers and judges wear wigs in the courtroom?


Courtroom Lawyer Wig

Wearing of wigs in the courtroom is a tradition that dates back to many centuries. Even until now the British lawyers and judges still wear wigs and special robes while in the courtroom. There are people who think this is a tradition that is already outdated and has to be wiped off.

As a matter of fact, there have been attempts to do away with the legal wigs. While this tradition is still there, what is the reason behind it. However, over the last few years, there were several dress code rules that changed the rules in Europe. However, this still remains as a norm.

Here are some of the reasons as to why lawyers and judges wear wigs in the courtroom:

  • Formality

In legal matters, there is a need for some sort of formality. The fact that the judges and lawyers wear wigs brings about a sense of authority in the court. There are actually different legal wigs that are worn in different case scenarios. Just the same way each profession has its own dress code, wigs are the dress code for the court. Without the wigs, that sense of formality and authority in the courtroom will not really be there. Along with formality, the wigs also bring dignity to the proceedings. That is why even after so many years, the legal wigs are still being worn even in the 21st century.

  • Distinguished judges and lawyers from others

One of the reasons as to why wigs are worn in the courtroom was to set aside the judges and lawyers from members of the public. The judges need to be recognized while in the courtroom that is why wigs are chosen as one of their dress codes. In this way, it is easy to tell judges from members of the public. While there are other ways to do this, the legal fraternity still prefers the wigs. For instance, there have been suggestions that there be a new dress code for the judges and lawyers that do not include the wigs.

  • Anonymity

The introduction of wigs in the court was due to discrimination based on color and ethnicity. To be fair to everyone, wigs are worn as a way to show that everyone is equal before the court of law. Typically, legal wigs are standard. In this way members of the public are made to understand that the judges or lawyers are impartial and unbiased. When they are in the courtroom not one of them belongs to a specific ethnic group or color. It shows that the person making the decision on the case is a human being that is unbiased.

  • Protect identity

Wigs are somehow meant to protect the identity of the judges or lawyers who wear them. There are times when some judges are faced with violent attacks from the public. The wigs were introduced as one of the ways to keep the judges anonymous and protect them from people who carry a grudge against them.  In this way, it may not be easy for a judge or lawyer to be identified by defendants that are angry at them. This was actually quite an important aspect of the court. The identity of either the judge or lawyer is kept safe and members of the public intimidate them. Aside from that, there are court settings where the wigs are not worn, for instance, in the family court. This is to make the court less intimidating.

  • Puts emphasis on the objectivity of the law

When it comes to legal matters there is the need for seriousness. Everything has to be approached with a level of gravity. When a judge has the legal wig, it is meant to shift personal attention from him. Things like the color of his hair are hidden. In this way, people will tend to concentrate on the matter at hand rather than other things that are not important to the case.

  • Homage to history

There are many states that have already done away with the tradition of wearing wigs. However, there are others that still hold on to it. It is more of a desire to preserve the courts' history. The legal wigs were worn in the courtroom from as early as 1680. They are worn in the 21st century probably as an homage to history. Even if legal wigs seem outdated, they are still a great [art of the history of the court. A prominent Hong Kong lawyer Johnny Mok told the Financial Times that it may look odd and outdated but if you look at this phenomenon, it has a symbolic aspect of it.

  • Uniformity

If each judge and lawyer were to wear whatever they wanted, then the setting in the courtroom will be chaotic. However, when there is uniformity then the supremacy if the law is emphasized. That is the reason behind the dress code of the court and that includes the wigs. Uniformity is quite important in any profession. There are wigs that are worn specifically by the judges. They have their own distinct design.  The wigs worn by the lawyers in a way look similar to the ones of the judges but have a slightly different design.

  • Sense of power and respect to the law

Respect for the court is important. That is one of the reasons why wigs were important and still are valued.  The power and respect that comes with the wearing of the wigs make them somewhat indispensable.

  • Are wigs still being worn?

One might wonder if this tradition is really being upheld up until now. There have been a few changes in the legal profession. The truth is wigs are not worn during all the court proceedings. There are some new dress code rules for the court that got rid of the wigs from most parts of the court proceedings. However, they are still being worn in criminal court appearances. They are also worn only when required for ceremonial purposes. When it comes to family or civil court proceedings, the wigs are excluded. This was introduced because, in the family court, the setting is supposed to be favorable especially because it may include children. The wigs are thought to be intimidating to the small children. They were therefore removed from such court appearances to create a less intimidating atmosphere.

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