why do they wear wigs in court

Members of England's House of Lords as well as English judges don white or gray horsehair wigs for sessions and trials. While critics periodically suggest abolishing the archaic tradition, purists point to the values of tradition and ceremony. The balding Louis XIV adopted the wig out of vanity. When King Charles II returned from the French court, the trend spread among the wealthy of England. By 1660, judges and the House of Lords adopted the fashion of the day. England emerged from a civil war between the Crown, Cavalier King Charles II and the Parliament-supporting Roundheads, named for the shorn heads of the Puritans. With the monarchy restored, long judicial wigs made a statement against the Roundheads. A bench of judges, or lords, dressed uniformly, from wig to toe, implies a united front representing the Crownвs interest, rather than the individual interests of its members. Robes and wigs also hide details of clothing that potentially distract attention in a court proceeding.


Numerous campaigns were launched to rid barristers and Lords of wigs during legal proceedings. Sir Robert Collier waged the first effort, inspired by sticky weather in the summer of 1868. As of 2010, all historical and modern attempts failed, citing tradition as the reason for continuing the practice.
The Chief Justice of Victoria has recently banned wigs from hearings in Victorian courtrooms and one of her fellow Justices was not happy when some barristers who ignored the Chief Justices direction, calling them БdisrespectfulБ. The Judge then adjourned the hearing before him and refused to hear the barristers until they had removed their wigs. This has generated much debate within and beyond the legal profession Б about whether or not lawyers should wear wigs when appearing in the District and Supreme Courts in accordance with time-honoured tradition. So what is the purpose of the wig in the law and why and in what circumstances are lawyers required to wear one?


Wig history dates back to England in around 1660. At that time, wigs were a fashionable item which everyone, not just lawyers, were wearing. As that fashion trend died off as they tend to do, lawyers and judges continued to wear wigs in the English courts and they have continued to wear wigs ever since. So there is over 400 years of history in the law behind the wearing of the wig as well as the gown jacket and jabot, but interestingly in South Australia wigs were not worn in court until 1850. They have been worn in the higher Courts of South Australia since. Proponents of the wig argue that the wearing of wigs respects and maintains the tradition of the law and the courts. Wigs acknowledge the origins of our legal system and deflect personal attention from the judge. It is also argued that they bring authority, formality and dignity to court proceedings. For judges, they can offer a degree of anonymity. Those against the wearing of wigs say that they are old-fashioned, irrelevant to our modern society and are associated with exclusivity.


They say that the judge should uphold the formality and dignity of court proceedings, not the clothing worn by officers of the court. In any case, wigs are recognisable as being inherent in the tradition of common law courts. The appeal to wigs lies in the history and tradition surrounding them. At the end of the day, what lawyers and judges are wearing makes no difference to court proceedings, their adjudication or their outcome. There is no real reason as to why the wig is worn other than tradition Б but in my view, courtrooms would not be the same without court regalia. Courts have a history of following tradition. Our legal system is based on the following of previous decisions of the court. The wig embodies the history and tradition associated with the law. I think it would be a shame to see court regalia and in particular the wig disappear from our legal system.

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