The Simple, Black Robe
“The black robe was not the custom of the nation at its beginning. At the start, judges, including federal judges, including the first justices of the Supreme Court, wore colored robes. They would wear red robes, trimmed in ermine in the custom of British judges. Some of them wore robes in the colors of the academic institutions from which they had graduated. But, John Marshall, who was not our first Chief Justice, but was the foundational, and probably the greatest of the Chief Justices, changed that tradition. At his investiture, he showed up wearing a simple, black robe. Soon thereafter, his brethren, the other members of the Court, followed suit, and today all federal judges wear a simple, black robe.
“So, why do I think that’s important? Why do I feel that is an appropriate symbol of the impersonality of the law? The focus should not be who is deciding a case. The focus shouldn’t be on the judge. The judge shouldn’t be drawing attention to herself or himself. The focus should be on the law. The black robe does not express individuality. A judge should not be deciding cases based on her individual preferences. A black robe symbolizes that all judges share a dedication to the rule of law; that we are engaged in a common enterprise of applying the law, and doing our best job at it. Justice should not turn on what judge you get. It should turn on what the law requires.
“You might be saying to yourselves, ‘Well, that’s all well and good, but judges are human. Human beings have preferences. Human beings have commitments. How could human beings ever separate out what their personal preferences are from what the law requires?’ I insist that that is possible. It is something that every judge must be vigilant about, but it is possible. That is the nature of the job, and that is the judicial duty.” (Judge Amy Coney Barrett)
Give Him 15 minutes in prayer:
- Pray for impartiality for all of the judges in the United States, from the federal to the municipal level.
- Come against impure motives, jadedness, contempt, and complacency. Some of them are tired and they have heard it all. Pray for the salvation of those who need Him.
- Ask God for righteous judges. Ask the Lord to remove those who are unjust or would take a bribe, or would otherwise operate in unrighteous ways against the people that come before them.
- Intercede for judges to view cases through the eyes of both the party they are considering ruling for, and the party they are considering ruling against, so they are sure their biases, sympathies, and opinions are not in the forefront of their ruling. (Judge Amy Coney Barrett)
A prayer you can pray:
Father, give us judges like Chief Justice John Marshall, who understood the importance of justice. Human lives are weighed in the balance of courtrooms across the nation on a daily basis. How often is justice served up in the “color” of that judges’ philosophy or political persuasion? How often does a case go all the way to the Supreme Court, and justices there rule according to their own mindset, passion, or public opinion. We say, “Enough!” We want righteous judges! Save souls, heal hearts and minds, but give us righteous judges. Jesus, You are the one that changes the hearts of men. Holy Spirit, draw lost judges in every courtroom in the land to the Judge of the whole earth. We ask for a harvest of souls in our judiciary system. We are done with judges who rule according to their biases and political persuasions. Give them a revelation of that simple, black robe they wear—a symbol that says they are not there to make a name for themselves, but to uphold the rule of law. Remove those that will not humble themselves. Raise up those who understand the symbolism of their simple, black robe and are able to honestly consider all sides. Let them put themselves aside and judge with righteous judgement. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.
Give us righteous judges as at the first, Lord!
1 Excerpted from a speech Judge Amy Coney Barrett presented at Hillsdale College in May 2019.