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Monday, February 18, 2019

Judicial Dignity

In a recent conversation with a judge from another country, I heard something that made me think. He said that a key aspect of judicial authority is dignity. Judges have authority in part because they act in a sober and thoughtful manner that is constrained. Take that away, and judges will lose the respect that they rely upon.

This idea dovetails with some comments that Winston Churchill made about judges in a speech arguing for a pay increase for them in 1954. The Prime Minister told the House of Commons: "A form of life and conduct far more severe and restricted than that of ordinary people is required from judges, and though unwritten, has been most strictly observed. They are at once privileged and restricted. They have to present a continuous aspect of dignity and conduct."

There are many ways, of course, in which judicial ethics (written or unwritten) support this principle. Perhaps more should be done, however. One wonders, for example, whether judges should be on social media. One wonders if some more developed Code of Ethics should be applied to the Supreme Court. And one might wonder how norms of civility should inform the rhetoric in judicial opinions.


Posted by Gerard Magliocca on February 18, 2019 at 12:27 PM | Permalink


All those Roman Catholic priest, bishop, cardinal, pope and nun frocks all lend dignity to the wearer--dignity that we now know is totally undeserved.l

Posted by: Jimbino | Feb 19, 2019 12:46:59 PM

I think that the courts are unlikely to retain the respect they historically enjoyed in a highly polarized media/social media environment where any decision they make on a controversial subject is represented by nearly half the country's preferred sources of news and twitter feed as a lawless and/or profoundly immoral act of partisanship. I'm not sure that there's much that courts can do about this; some members of the Supreme Court have publicly commented (and others arguably appear to think) that having an unpredictable median Justice will make the Court appear "impartial and neutral and fair," but if anything, when both sides of the political spectrum suffer bitter losses and both sides are told that those losses are just politically motivated lawlessness (see, e.g., what many politicians, pundits, and even academics said about NFIB, or see what others said about Shelby County), everyone may eventually come to believe that the courts are filled with hacks, albeit hacks who occasionally get things right. Of course, persuasive and civil reason-giving can help at the outer margins, but I can think of lots of pretty reasonably reasoned opinions that are widely denounced as frivolously wrong hackery, and generally see hardly any correlation between comprehensible and persuasive reasoning and approval, or that people who hotly disapprove of an opinion tend to know what's in it; for example, whatever you think of the results of these cases, Kennedy explains his reasons much more clearly in Citizens United than in Obergefell or Windsor, but Citizens United is the one that's terribly unpopular, and in ways that generally, as far as public consciousness goes, misunderstand the opinion's reasoning and really what it's about (independent expenditures on a corporation's own advocacy, not contributions, or disclosure-free contributions or disclosure-free speech).

Posted by: Asher | Feb 19, 2019 2:21:23 AM

"Thoughtful manner"?

Was the opinion in Bush v. Gore or Shelby County "thoughtful"?

When does a supreme court opinion you disagree with go from (a) "wrong the day it was decided" to (b) "beyond the pale" and no longer "thoughtful"?

Posted by: Stewart | Feb 18, 2019 6:51:27 PM

Another correction:

Should be of course :it wouldn't do, if the judge is partial, and of course,not as written:" impartial ".

Apologizing .....

Posted by: El roam | Feb 18, 2019 3:31:08 PM

Just correcting my comment down there:

Not " lonely rider " but rather : lone rider,or "lone wolf ".

Not " criminal process " but rather:criminal proceedings.


Posted by: El roam | Feb 18, 2019 2:38:13 PM

Absolutely correct, yet,does stem mainly from the need to be absolutely impartial.So, all parties, must rely on such total impartiality. Just to simplify it:

An ordinary person. Layman in law. Suppose innocent or claims to be so. He does face, a formidable process as facing the system in criminal process. He must face alone, huge entities or forces. Even if he has enough money, even for the best lawyers, it wouldn't do, if the judge is impartial. So, one judge, doesn't work for no one. He is not employed by no one. He is a " lonely rider ". And like a good samurai, even god can't deviate him from his assignment. He is afraid of no one. Would stop at nothing for achieving justice.That's it!

The Turkish constitution,is a sublime illustration,here I quote:

CHAPTER THREE. Judicial Power

I. General provisions

A. Independence of the courts

Judges shall be independent in the discharge of their duties; they shall give judgment in accordance with the Constitution, laws, and their personal conviction conforming with the law.

No organ, authority, office or individual may give orders or instructions to courts or judges relating to the exercise of judicial power, send them circulars, or make recommendations or suggestions.

No questions shall be asked, debates held, or statements made in the Legislative Assembly relating to the exercise of judicial power concerning a case under trial.

Legislative and executive organs and the administration shall comply with court decisions; these organs and the administration shall neither alter them in any respect, nor delay their execution.

End of quotation:

And that is why, only judges ( of the Supreme court ) can appoint judges. No politicians no hell. That's it !!

Maybe later,I shall illustrate more,from all over the world.


Posted by: El roam | Feb 18, 2019 1:54:55 PM

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