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​Symbols of Authority


robe2.jpgThe Robe


During much of the Middle Ages, judges wore robes, usually green. By the Fifteenth Century, scarlet robes were most popular. In 1635, the color of the robe was regulated by a decree of the judges of the Court of Westminster in England. Scarlet robes were to be worn only on holy days. Robes of black or violet were to be worn on all other occasions. The custom of wearing black robes may have been adopted in the late 1600's when English judges went into mourning at the death of King Charles II in 1685 or at the death of Queen Mary in 1694.


In the United States, Thomas Jefferson was against “any needless official apparel.” Alexander Hamilton, on the other hand, favored both the robe and a wig. At the first session of the U.S. Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Jay wore a robe of black silk with salmon-colored facing, while the other justices were dressed in brightly colored robes.


The Gavel


image: gavelOur modern-day judge's gavel finds its origin in Tenth Century Scandinavian mythology, with links as far back as the Sixth or Seventh Century. Archeological records show evidence of small metal amulets representing Mjollnir, the magical hammer of the god Thor. Thor was a god of the people, a friend of landowner and peasant alike.


Thor was a patron of justice; his oath ring could seal any contract, and the judge's gavel owes its origin to the hammer symbol of Thor's might and authority.


scales.jpgThe Scales


The scales of justice are a symbol of the weighing of evidence by a judge to determine whether a case is proven.