As recently recounted by the Miami Herald, all Florida judges are now obligated to wear black robes without “embellishments.” This order is directly from the top judge himself: Chief Justice Jorge Labarga of the Florida Supreme Court.
To some members of the general public, they may be wondering what changed. But to those of us who traverse the halls of our state courthouses, we know that not all judges wear black robes, and those that do often wear pins or jewelry with them. Think this isn’t a big deal for some judges? Think again. Some judges have been vocal about their disagreement with the new order. But that’s not why I’m posting this blog. Although the Miami Herald’s article is a short and worthwhile read, to me, the most interesting portion comes (unsurprisingly) from the likes of the Hon. Milton Hirsch, Circuit Court Judge for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in Miami-Dade County. He provides a brief overview of the history of black robes on the bench in America:
“Prior to the death of Queen Anne, English judges wore red and other colored robes,” Hirsch wrote. “When the queen died, English judges put on black in mourning, and we colonists did likewise. No one told us when the period of mourning had passed, so even after the English judges went back to their coats of many colors, here in the colonies we continued to wear all black.”
For the record, prior to this rule change, I had yet to be distracted or act informally when walking into court and seeing a pin on the judge’s robe. I’ve also never had a client take the proceedings less seriously for the same reasons.