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Quote of the Day - This is not your dad's rug, wig or toupee. This is about fashion now. - Chris Licursi
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Britons Ask Their Judges: Have You Lost Your Mind? Where's Your Wig?

A five centuries-old tradition in England has gone the way of the horse and buggy.  The Right Honourable Lord High and Mighty Chief Justice of England and Wales, Sir Nicholas Addison Phillips, Baron of Worth Matravers, PC, QC and a host of other pompous and circumstantial (that should read pomp and circumstance, but pompous just sounded better, don't you agree?) awards, has declared them off-limits in courtrooms throughout those two countries. 

Judges in Scotland and Ireland, thank you very much, will be allowed to make up their, er, well, own minds, since the authority of the Lord Chief Justice (I made up the part about being high and mighty, but you believed it, didn't you?) does not extend to these other two British colonies - or whatever they're calling them these days.

Holy hairless judges, Batman, how could this have happened?

Perhaps one explanation lies in Judge (dare I call him just that?) Phillips' own clothing choices.  Scandalous photographs on the Internet show him wearing a leisure shirt, which strangely enough appears to match the leisure shirt worn by his grandson, who due to his tender years, can't be faulted for his fashion faults.  Judge Phillips, on the other hand....

The wigs have apparently gone out of style, according to LCJ Phillips, who said, "while there will never be unanimity of view about court dress, the desirability of these changes has a broad measure of agreement."

The English are masters of the understatement, aren't they?  According to London's Business Times, there is in fact little agreed upon at this point:  "1,300 judges from the High Court down to the rank of deputy district judge, who sit in civil and family cases, will wear a new, simple gown. There is still no agreement on design. One suggestion is for a dressing-gown style of robe with a simple sash coloured according to rank; another is for a European-style gown buttoning up to the neck."

And to ensure they don't go too far in modernizing the legal profession for the first time since the 1600's, wigs, starched collars and robes will be allowed in criminal proceedings.

Whew. 

We don't wear wigs in court in America, and the Chicago Times article linked immediately below, noted one British barrister's opinion who apparently commented on a televised "white-collar criminal trial in the U.S. and complained that without wigs and robes it was difficult to determine who was a lawyer and who was a defendant." 

Just in case you're wondering, there are, according to this Chicago Tribune article, three basic types of wigs, all based on a design patented in 1822 by a London wigmaker named Humphrey Ravenscroft.  England originally adopted judicial wigs in 1685, but Ravenscroft's design created "the barrister's wig or tie-wig, which consists of a frizzed crown, five rows of curls and two tied tails; the judge's bench wig or bob-wig, which is frizzed all over and also has two tails, and a judge's full-bottomed ceremonial wig -- the original bigwig."  In England, the bigwig will only be allowed for ceremonial dress, under the new ruling.

Don't worry, though.  The MIPTC judge above won't lose his wig.  The Lord High And Mighty Chief Justice can't order us around anymore. 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, July 25, 2007 at 00:01 Comments Closed (0) |
 
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