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Dignity and ceremony

 
EN
 
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EN
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24 April 2019 20:55
 

When I was a clerk for a federal appellate judge a million years ago, I once announced him as he went to the bench (he was sitting in a district court that day by designation).  It went something like “All rise; Oyez, oyez, the honorable XX, visiting judge in the Northern District of Texas, Lubbock Division.”.  And he came in with his robes and court began.  The ceremony of it was supposed to enforce the dignity of the court, so that people would be reminded to respect the law.  Imagine it if court was run like a 6th grade class, with guys farting and shooting spit wads.  Dignity in this sense is important, because without it we have a tendency to become crass and disrespectful.  But it also creates a barrier between the citizen and the institution.  Why do we need things like ceremony to reinforce our notions of importance, solemnity and respect?  What is the psychological basis for this phenomenon?

 
Twissel
 
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Twissel
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24 April 2019 21:47
 

It should be a given that people are able to distinguish between respect owed to Institutions critical to the nation, and the respect the people holding positions in said institutions might or might not deserve.

But unfortunately, it isn’t: when Huckasanders says that Kelly’s words and actions cannot possibly be questioned because he is a General, or Miller says Trump’s immigration polices cannot be questioned because he is President, then people intentionally muddle the distinction between The Office and The Office Holder.

A judge in his/her courtroom is more than the individual, and any pomp necessary to drive that point home is appropriate.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t criticize the judge when not in session.

 
 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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25 April 2019 05:40
 

Bruce, do you see displays of formality as potentially having a mildly hypnotizing effect? Keeping in mind that intellectual abilities and emotional control tend to be low for people who find themselves in criminal courtrooms, lessons are typically not quickly understood and/or accepted, hence the exceptionally common repeat offender. Maybe the mildly hypnotizing effect of courtroom formality can make a difference.

Civil courts could perhaps do with less formality. But criminal courts have access to powers no one else in society has. The serious nature of their role seems to demand certain kinds of cues for learning-disabled miscreants to truly understand, and when it come to displaying this level of seriousness, subtle nudging seems inappropriate. The cues—whether they’ll be consciously or unconsciously received—need to communicate something like the following:

“Today, we’re announcing to you, your friends and family, and ultimately to anyone in the world who might take an interest in your behavior, that you’ve apparently done something heinous. We disapprove of what you did so strongly that we’re now preparing to take away your most cherished rights. If it becomes obvious to us that you’ve actually done what you’re being accused of having done, you’re finished. Your social status will place you into the very lowest of all status levels found in the world, possibly for a very long time, depending on how respectful you seem to us today. Incarcerating you will cost a lot of money, but such a cost will be necessary to keep you off the streets. That’s how despicable we find your behavior [and you!].”

 
burt
 
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burt
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25 April 2019 07:33
 

I think in part it goes with the saying: set and setting. In this case with a link between the two. Establishing a cultural-psychological space where certain norms of behavior are enforced. Sort of a “this is serious, pay attention.”

But I’ve always wondered what “oyez” means.

 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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25 April 2019 08:35
 

It does seem that the seriousness of a court proceeding should be reflected in the ceremony and dress.  Some ceremonial links to the past indicate a country’s history of the rule of law, and formal dress indicates that all participants take it seriously, the judge’s robes symbolic that he/she is not just an individual but when on the bench is a representative of a solemn office.

This might create “a barrier between the citizen and the institution”, but perhaps to some extent this is necessary to convey that a line has been crossed, that there is a higher power to which everyone is answerable.  (Which of course carries with it an obligation that that power is worthy.) 


At least on this side of the pond we have dispensed with the odd-looking wigs:
https://www.urbo.com/content/this-is-why-british-lawyers-still-wear-wigs-and-robes-in-court/

What’s The Point?
Many wonder why the robe and wig tradition has stuck around for so long. Traditionalists will tell you the uniform carries a sense of power and respect for the law. The robes and wigs also make it more difficult for judges to be identified by criminal defendants outside the courtroom.
...
The wigs and robes are still to be worn during criminal trials, but some people want the tradition to be fully wiped from the books. A growing number of lawyers feel the dress code is outdated as a suit of armor and believe the British courts should be more focused on important issues—and not on what officials are wearing.

 

 
 
EN
 
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EN
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25 April 2019 09:33
 
burt - 25 April 2019 07:33 AM

I think in part it goes with the saying: set and setting. In this case with a link between the two. Establishing a cultural-psychological space where certain norms of behavior are enforced. Sort of a “this is serious, pay attention.”

But I’ve always wondered what “oyez” means.

It means “hear!” or “listen up!”  You can pronounce it with or without the “z”.  It goes along with your “this is serious, pay attention” comment.

Psychologically, we have a hard time focusing. We were used to dangers like big animals and bad weather, but subtle emergencies like standing in front of a man with power who could totally destroy your life weren’t so easy to identify.  So we have the dress, the pageantry, the pomp, to impress you with the idea.  Like the oaths that people take on solemn occasions - “this is important”.  Otherwise, we might miss it.  It makes an impression.  We are impressed with impressions.  We remember.  It’s not the usual course of business.  Without this stuff, I don’t think we could have a workable society.

Now, could we dispense with ties?  Please, absolutely.  But some pomp is needed - otherwise, it turns into a frat house.

 
Jefe
 
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Jefe
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25 April 2019 09:44
 
EN - 25 April 2019 09:33 AM

Now, could we dispense with ties?  Please, absolutely.

Yes!  I hate wearing ties.  I am a big fan of the new office-casual.

 

 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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25 April 2019 12:05
 
Jefe - 25 April 2019 09:44 AM
EN - 25 April 2019 09:33 AM

Now, could we dispense with ties?  Please, absolutely.

Yes!  I hate wearing ties.  I am a big fan of the new office-casual.

Nah, there should be some discomfort associated with power.  ;-)

 
 
unsmoked
 
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unsmoked
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25 April 2019 12:31
 
Jan_CAN - 25 April 2019 12:05 PM
Jefe - 25 April 2019 09:44 AM
EN - 25 April 2019 09:33 AM

Now, could we dispense with ties?  Please, absolutely.

Yes!  I hate wearing ties.  I am a big fan of the new office-casual.

Nah, there should be some discomfort associated with power.  wink

Getting dressed for work:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_XVIII_of_France

 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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25 April 2019 22:07
 

Probably. It seems like a time tested axiom. There really hasn’t been a culture that I know of that didn’t utilize some kind of ceremonial formality. We won’t really know until its put to the test.

 
brazen4
 
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brazen4
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26 April 2019 08:14
 

Don’t forget the sergeant at arms who is the enforcer of the code of conduct. Some just refuse to “pay attention” and are removed.

 
burt
 
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burt
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26 April 2019 08:40
 
EN - 25 April 2019 09:33 AM
burt - 25 April 2019 07:33 AM

I think in part it goes with the saying: set and setting. In this case with a link between the two. Establishing a cultural-psychological space where certain norms of behavior are enforced. Sort of a “this is serious, pay attention.”

But I’ve always wondered what “oyez” means.

It means “hear!” or “listen up!”  You can pronounce it with or without the “z”.  It goes along with your “this is serious, pay attention” comment.

Psychologically, we have a hard time focusing. We were used to dangers like big animals and bad weather, but subtle emergencies like standing in front of a man with power who could totally destroy your life weren’t so easy to identify.  So we have the dress, the pageantry, the pomp, to impress you with the idea.  Like the oaths that people take on solemn occasions - “this is important”.  Otherwise, we might miss it.  It makes an impression.  We are impressed with impressions.  We remember.  It’s not the usual course of business.  Without this stuff, I don’t think we could have a workable society.

Now, could we dispense with ties?  Please, absolutely.  But some pomp is needed - otherwise, it turns into a frat house.

Definitely no ties. I’ve long thought that one of Einstein’s greatest accomplishments was shifting the dress code for physics professors.

 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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26 April 2019 12:28
 

Just out of curiosity, EN, did someone hand you the precise words for you to announce, or were you left to just introduce the judge in the way most any lawyer would probably know or be able to find out how to do? And if someone handed them to you, who was it? A bailiff would be my first guess. And, was it typed out?

Also, how much umph did you apply to the announcement? Did you stumble at all?

 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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26 April 2019 13:56
 

Here’s the alternative.

The cartoon characters are from Rick and Morty, but the dialog is “a faithful, word-for-word recreation” of the transcript from an actual court hearing.

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EN
 
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EN
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26 April 2019 14:14
 
nonverbal - 26 April 2019 12:28 PM

Just out of curiosity, EN, did someone hand you the precise words for you to announce, or were you left to just introduce the judge in the way most any lawyer would probably know or be able to find out how to do? And if someone handed them to you, who was it? A bailiff would be my first guess. And, was it typed out?

Also, how much umph did you apply to the announcement? Did you stumble at all?

The judge asked me to announce him.  I had never done that before so I looked up how it’s done in other places and sort of made up my own.  I tried to make it simple and dignified, but I did not sound all that terrifying.  I doubt it made a serious impression, but they did stand up before he came in.

 
LadyJane
 
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LadyJane
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26 April 2019 17:29
 

As dignified as the death penalty.

 
 
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