Praised be the judges who ask the audience to remain seated upon their entry

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May 11, 2014 Praised be the judges who ask the audience to remain seated upon their entry

The great majority of judges before whom I appear enter the courtroom with a command of "all rise" from one of the courtroom personnel.

American judges serve a rather undemocratic role in the least democratic branch of government in a nation that is not truly democratic in the first place. Of course, we also see administrative courts in the executive branch of government, with administrative law judges in black robes who demand being treated as judges from the judicial branch. I disagree with treating administrative law judges as judges at all versus as non-judge adjudicators, but do not expect my say-so to change the practice.

In courtrooms more than in any other sector of government, we hear honorifics, in the form of "Your Honor" directed to judges. Judges enter the courtroom in robes and, where I practice, sit on elevated platforms. They are empowered summarily to convict and jail people for contempt of court when trials on such charges should be preferred except where a summary contempt order is necessary to preserve court order and respect for the court, and where contempt towards other government officials is ordinarily protected by the First Amendment (except for contempt of Congress in certain circumstances). We do not need all these undemocratic symbols and commands that date back centuries to monarchical England, to develop and maintain respect and obedience to judges and their orders. Respect with judges and all others is a two-way street.

A small minority of judges before whom I appear do not call for those in the courtroom to rise upon the judge’s entry. Only last week did I for the first time hear a judge articulate his or her reason for not calling for people to stand for the judge. One of the particularly modest — yet still firm-spoken and well-respected — judges before whom I appear said after entering the courtroom, having had the deputy sheriff say to remain seated, but still seeing some people stand for him, something along the lines of "I work for all of you, so I do not see the need for you to stand for me."

This particular judge earns respect. He does not need to command it.

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