This blog has previously referred to the wearing of wigs by barristers. Until fairly recently the wearing of a wig by a barrister was compulsory under the Rules of the Superior Courts. (The Rules are law [well, a kind of law] and are made by the Rules Committee. Its membership is chosen, it would appear, to be representative of some of the various “interests” in the legal system).
Currently, it is obligatory on judges of the superior courts to likewise wear wigs.
As an issue this is simply not open to debate. The wearing of wigs is required because that’s the way it is.
Situations like this can be explained, but not by seeking opinions to explain the reasons for the situation. Instead we have to look to psychology.
The real purpose is to assert wordlessly, the finality of rational adjudication from the judge. That is, it is intended to define rationality by reference to the wig; rationality emanates from the wig. Without it, there is doubt and possibly confusion.
In 1973 David Rosenhan and some colleagues demonstrated that “sane” and “insane” were social constructs.
Likewise, in the field of law, the “plaintiff”, the “defendant” and the “judge” are social constructs.
This very dangerous [from one point of view] for the judge.
Leo Tolstoy has remarked:
The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.”
There must, in short, be mechanisms to cut short the revelation of alternative, including superior, expositions of reality.
The judicial wig is one of those mechanisms.