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17th century Spanish judge in full gowns, by Diego Velázquez.
Illustration for Johan Herman Wessel's poem.

Judges are officials who presides over a court of law, either alone or as part of a panel, and make determinations about the applicability of the law to the facts presented.


  • It is very disturbing that the integrity of judgements coming from our courts is being openly questioned. More worrying is that in Nigeria today, neither those who cast the ballots nor those who count them decide the outcome of a democratic process. The decision as to who represents the people is now with Judges. [...] If this democracy is to survive, it is imperative that the judiciary as an institution and judges as individuals are not only impartial to those who appear before them but also that the wider public have the confidence that cases affecting their well-being will be decided fairly and in accordance with the law.
  • Judges ought to remember that their office is jus dicere, and not jus dare—to interpret law, and not to make law, or give law.
    • Francis Bacon, "Essay LVI: Of Judicature", Essays (1625), reported in Richard Whately, Bacon's Essays With Annotations (1857), p. 511.
  • Judges ought to be more learned than witty, more reverend than plausible, and more advised than confident. Above all things, integrity is their portion and proper virtue.
  • Judges must beware of hard constructions and strained inferences; for there is no worse torture than the torture of laws. Specially in case of laws penal, they ought to have care that that which was meant for terror be not tuned into rigour; and that they bring not upon the people that shower whereof the Scripture speaketh, Pluet super eos laqueos: for penal laws pressed are a shower of snares upon the people.
  • Non est interpretatio, sed divinatio, quae recedit a litera.
    • If we depart from the letter, we are not interpreting the law, but guessing at the law.
    • Francis Bacon, "Essay LVI: Of Judicature", Essays, reported in Richard Whately, Bacon's Essays With Annotations (1857), p. 515.
  • It is the Judges (as we have seen) that make the common law:— Do you know how they make it? Just as a man makes laws for his dog. When your dog does anything you want to break him of, you wait till he does it, and then beat him for it. This is the way you make laws for your dog: and this is the way the Judges make laws for you and me.
    • Jeremy Bentham, Truth versus Ashhurst [A criticism of Sir W.H. Ashhurst's charge to the Grand Jury of Middlesex, November 19, 17920] (1823), p. 11.
  • I will always shake hands with a man who offers it to me.
    • Carlo Biotti, 7 June 1971, at the Court of Milan. The reference is to the defendant Baldelli who, once the hearing is over, approaches President Biotti, warning that he would be absent at the next hearing, and Biotti usually shakes hands with anyone offering it to him. Camilla Cederna, Pinelli Una finestra sulla strage, Feltrinelli (1971).
  • There is in each of us a stream of tendency, whether you choose to call it philosophy or not, which gives coherence and direction to thought and action. Judges cannot escape that current any more than other mortals. All their lives, forces which they do not recognize and cannot name, have been tugging at them — inherited instincts, traditional beliefs, acquired convictions; and the resultant is an outlook on life, a conception of social needs. … In this mental background every problem finds it setting. We may try to see things as objectively as we please. None the less, we can never see them with any eyes except our own.
  • The great tides and currents which engulf the rest of men do not turn aside in their course and pass the judges by.
  • The state in commissioning its judges has commanded them to judge, but neither in constitution nor in statute has it formulated a code to define the manner of their judging. The pressure of society invests new forms of conduct in the minds of the multitude with the sanction of moral obligation, and the same pressure working upon the mind of the judge invests them finally through his action with the sanction of the law.
  • Times before number, condemned criminals had waited for their last dawn. Yet until the very end they could hope for a reprieve; human judges can show mercy. But against the laws of nature, there is no appeal.
    • Arthur C. Clarke, The Wind From the Sun: Stories of the Space Age (1972), p. 8.
  • Having children not only obeys the Torah’s first command to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” but also increased adultsmaturity. The Rabbis recognized this in a very interesting ruling, according to which only people with children of their own were eligible to serve as judges in capital cases. Only such people, the Rabbis seem to be saying, can know the true value of life – both the life of the alleged perpetrator and the life of the victim.
  • No judge writes on a wholly clean slate.
  • The judges, those respectable officials, flip through law books and hand down arbitrary judgments on human actions, alienating themselves from human lives, denying even their humanity as they undertake their duty as protectors of authority.
  • Whoso would shed man's blood, his blood would be shed. Even if human judges let the guilty man go free, his punishment would overtake him. He would die an unnatural death, such as he had inflicted upon his fellow-man. Yea, even beasts that slew men, even of them would the life of men be required.
    • Louis Ginzberg, "The Legend of the Jews" Chapter IV: Noah Leaves the Ark (1909)
  • Jefferson was against any needless official apparel, but if the gown was to carry, he said: "For Heaven's sake discard the monstrous wig which makes the English judges look like rats peeping through bunches of oakum."
  • When twenty years ago a vague terror went over the earth and the word socialism began to be heard, I thought and still think that fear was translated into doctrines that had no proper place in the Constitution or the common law. Judges are apt to be naif, simple-minded men, and they need something of Mephistopheles. We too need education in the obvious—to learn to transcend our own convictions and to leave room for much that we hold dear to be done away with short of revolution by the orderly change of law.
  • I do not know whether it is the view of the Court that a judge must be thick-skinned or just thick-headed, but nothing in my experience or observation confirms the idea that he is insensitive to publicity. Who does not prefer good to ill report of his work? And if fame — a good public name — is, as Milton said, the "last infirmity of noble mind", it is frequently the first infirmity of a mediocre one.
  • When we went to school we were told that we were governed by laws, not men. As a result of that, many people think there is no need to pay any attention to judicial candidates because judges merely apply the law by some mathematical formula and a good judge and a bad judge all apply the same kind of law. The fact is that the most important part of a judge's work is the exercise of judgment and that the law in a court is never better than the common sense judgment of the judge that is presiding.
    • Robert H. Jackson, reported in Eugene Gerhart, America's Advocate: Robert H. Jackson (1958), p. 289.
  • Something happens to a man when he puts on a judicial robe, and I think it ought to. The change is very great and requires psychological change within a man to get into an attitude of deciding other people's controversies, instead of waging them. It really calls for quite a changed attitude. Some never make it - and I am not sure I have.
    • Robert H. Jackson, reported in Leon Friedman and Fred L. Israel, 4 The Justices of the United States Supreme Court 1789-1969, 2563 (1969).
  • As, for the safety of society, we commit honest maniacs to Bedlam, so judges should be withdrawn from their bench, whose erroneous biases are leading us to dissolution. It may indeed injure them in fame or in fortune; but it saves the republic, which is the first and supreme law.
    • Thomas Jefferson, "Autobiography", in Paul L. Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1892), vol. 1, p. 114 (1892).
  • While the censorious man is most severe in judging others, he is invariably the most ready to repel any animadversions made upon himself; upon the principle well understood in medical circles, that the feeblest bodies are always the most sensitive.
    • Elias Lyman Magoon, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 357.
  • My suit has nothing to do with the assault, or battery, or poisoning, but is about three goats, which, I complain, have been stolen, by my neighbor This the judge desires to have proved to him, but you, with swelling words and extravagant gestures, dilate on the Battle of Cannæ, the Mithridatic war, and the perjuries of the insensate Carthaginians, the Syllæ, the Marii, and the Mucii It is time, Postumus, to say something about my three goats
    • Martial, Epigrams (c. 80-104 AD), Book VI., Epigram 19.
  • Although the most acute judges of the witches and even the witches themselves, were convinced of the guilt of witchery, the guilt nevertheless was non-existent. It is thus with all guilt.
  • The hungry judges soon the sentence sign,
    And wretches hang that jurymen may dine.
  • Honour is the mysticism of legality.
    • Friedrich Schlegel, Aphorism 77, Ideas, as translated in The Early Political Writings of the German Romantics (1996) edited by Frederick C. Beiser, p. 131.
  • Therefore I say again,
    I utterly abhor, yea from my soul
    Refuse you for my judge; whom, yet once more,
    I hold my most malicious foe, and think not
    At all a mend to truth.
  • He who the sword of heaven will bear
    Should be as holy as severe,
    Pattern in himself to know,
    Grace to stand, and virtue go;
    More nor less to others paying
    Than by self-offenses weighing
    Shame to him, whose cruel striking
    Kills for faults of his own liking!
  • What is my offence?
    Where are the evidence that do accuse me?
    What lawful quest have given their verdict up
    Unto the frowning judge?
  • As far as I'm concerned, the mark of a good justice or a good judge is an opinion you can read and have no idea whether it was written by a man or a woman, a Republican or a Democrat or a Christian or a Jew. The most important thing is quality and competence and temperament and character and diligence.
    • Potter Stewart, in Fred Barbash, "Student Query Moved Stewart to Quit", The Washington Post (June 20, 1981), when asked whether President Reagan should make a special effort to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court, from which Stewart was resigning.
  • In the public interest, therefore, it is better that we lose the services of the exceptions who are good Judges after they are seventy and avoid the presence on the Bench of men who are not able to keep up with the work, or to perform it satisfactorily.
    • William Howard Taft, Popular Government: Its Essence, Its Permanence and Its Perils (1913), chapter 7, p. 159.
  • Judges, like people, may be divided roughly into four classes: judges with neither head nor heart—they are to be avoided at all costs; judges with head but no heart—they are almost as bad; then judges with heart but no head—risky but better than the first two; and finally, those rare judges who possess both head and a heart—thanks to blind luck, that's our judge.
    • Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Murder (1958), chapter 17, p. 313–14.
  • When the spotless ermine of the judicial robe fell on John Jay, it touched nothing less spotless than itself.
    • Daniel Webster, at a public dinner, New York City (March 10, 1831); in The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster (1903), vol. 2, p. 51. The dinner was given in Webster's honor by the citizens of New York, to thank him for his defense of the Constitution in the previous session of Congress.
  • The Judge is nothing but the Law Speaking.
    • Reported in Benjamin Whichcote, Anthony Tuckney, Moral and Religious Aphorisms (1753), p. 44, Aphorism #319.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations


Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 410-411.

  • The cold neutrality of an impartial judge.
  • A justice with grave justices shall sit;
    He praise their wisdom, they admire his wit.
  • Art thou a magistrate? then be severe:
    If studious, copy fair what tune hath blurr'd,
    Redeem truth from his jaws: if soldier,
    Chase brave employments with a naked sword
    Throughout the world. Fool not, for all may have
    If they dare try, a glorious life, or grave.
  • Male verum exammat omrus
    Corruptus judex.
    • A corrupt judge does not carefully search for the truth.
    • Horace, Satires, II, 2, 8.
  • So wise, so grave, of so perplex'd a tongue,
    And loud withal, that would not wag, nor scarce
    Lie still without a fee.
  • Le devoir des juges est de rendre justice, leur métier est de la différer; quelques tins savent leur devour, et font leur métier.
    • A judge's duty is to grant justice, but his practice is to delay it: even those judges who know their duty adhere to the general practice.
    • Jean de La Bruyere, Les Caracteres.
  • Half as sober as a judge.
  • Bisogna che i giudici siano assai, perchè pochi sempre fanno a modo de' pochi.
    • There should be many judges, for few will always do the will of few.
    • Machiavelli, Dei Discorsi. I. 7.
  • Judicis officium est ut res ita tempora rerum Quserere.
    • The judge's duty is to inquire about the time, as well as the facts.
    • Ovid, Tristium, I., 1. 37.
  • Since twelve honest men have decided the cause,
    And were judges of fact, tho' not judges of laws.
    • Pulteney, The Honest Jury, in the Craftsman, Vol 5, 337. Refers to Sir Philip Yorke's unsuccessful prosecution of The Craftsman. (1792) Quoted by Lord Mansfield.
  • Si judicas, cognosce: si regnas, jube.
  • Four things belong to a judge: to hear courteously, to answer wisely, to consider soberly, and to decide impartially.
  • Judex damnatur cum nocens absolvitur.
    • The judge is condemned when the guilty is acquitted.
    • Syrus, Maxims.
  • Initia magistratuum nostrorum meliora, ferme finis inclinat.
    • Our magistrates discharge their duties best at the beginning; and fall off toward the end.
    • Tacitus, Annales (c. 110), XV, 31.
Whoso would shed man's blood, his blood would be shed. Even if human judges let the guilty man go free, his punishment would overtake him. He would die an unnatural death, such as he had inflicted upon his fellow-man. ~ Louis Ginzberg
Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 107-126.
  • The Judge does much better herein, than what a bare grave grammarian, or logician, or other prudent man could do.
    • On the command of language of judges, in Hale's "Common Law," Vol. I., (5th ed.).
  • Judges, like Caesar's wife, should be above suspicion.
    • Bowen, L.J., Leeson v. General Council of Medical Education and Registration (1889), L. R. 43 C. D. 385.
  • What is the obligation upon which we proceed? Upon the solemn sanction of an oath. Take away the reverence for religion, and there is an end at once of that obligation.
    • Best, J., King v. Carlile (1821), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 1046.
  • I am willing to put the case into any shape you choose.
  • Common sense still lingers in Westminster Hall.
  • For the Judges of the Court I feel the most sincere respect, esteem and affection. Never have there presided in Westminster Hall magistrates more devotedly anxious to perform in a satisfactory manner the duties of their high office.
    • Lord Campbell's Speeches, 406.
  • To vindicate the policy of the law is no necessary part of the office of a Judge.
    • Sir William Scott, Evans v. Evans (1790), 1 Hagg. Con. Rep. 36.
  • Little respect will be paid to our judgments if we overthrow that one day, which we resolved the day before.
    • Pratt, J., Rex v. Inhabitants de Haughton (1718), 1 Str. 83.
  • I can't look to contingencies.
  • Our business is to determine of meum and tuum, where the heats do not run so high, as in things belonging to the legislature.
    • Powys, J., Ashby v. White (1703), 2 Raym. 946.
  • We must go upon general principles.
  • The expressions of every Judge must be taken with reference to the case on which he decides, otherwise the law will get into extreme confusion. That is what we are to look at in all cases. The manner in which he is arguing it, is not the thing; it is the principle he is deciding.
    • Beet, C.J., Richardson v. Mellish (1824), 2 Bing. 248.
  • Aucupia verborum sunt judice indigna: Catching at words is unworthy of a Judge.
  • Judges, in their judgments, ought to have a great regard to the generality of the cases of the King's subjects, and to the inconveniences which may ensue thereon, by the one way or the other. Judges, in giving their resolutions in cases depending before them, are to judge of inconveniences as things illegal; and an argument ah ineonvenienti is very strong to prove that it is against law.
    • Hyde, J., Manby v. Scott (1672), 1 Mod. 127.
  • If my Lord Chief Justice do commit any person, and set his name to the warrant, he does not use to add to his name "Lord Chief Justice," but he is known to be so, without that addition. The lords do not use to write themselves privy counsellors; they are known to be so, as well as a Judge, who only writes his name and does not use to make the addition of his office.
    • Allybone, J., Trial of the Seven Bishops (1688), 12 How. St. Tr. 210. The Chief Justice of England is called in old Histories Capitalis Justicia et prima post Regem in Anglia Justieia. Lamb Eirenarcha, p. 4, Precedence, &C, of the Judges. Fortescue, 395.
  • I am always afraid of quoting my own decisions; I do not think it is the right thing for a judge to do, but I often do refer to them when I can thereby avoid repeating in different words what I have said before.
    • Kekewich, J., Bolton Partners v. Lambert (1889), L. R. 41 C. D. 300.
  • Every Judge ought to exercise care, and it is not more needed in one case than in another.
    • Sir G. Jessel, M.R., Smith v. Smith (1875), L. R. 20 Eq. Ca. 504. Abundant caidela non nocet: Extreme care does no mischief. —11 Co. 6. Festinatio justitice est noverca infortunii: Hasty justice is the stepmother of misfortune.—Hob. 97.
  • In the hurry of business, the most able Judges are liable to err.
    • Lord Kenyon, C.J., Cotton v. Thurland (1793), 5 T. R. 409.
  • For myself I will say that the Judges invite discussion of their acts in the administration of the law, and it is a relief to them to see error pointed out, if it is committed.
    • Fitzgerald, J., Reg v. Sullivan (1868), 11 Cox, C. C. 57. In The Protector v. Geering (1656), Atkins, arguendo, says: "Errors are like Felons and Traytors; any person may discover them, they do caput gerere lupinum."—Hardres, 85. It is for the honour of a Court of justice to avoid error in their judgments.—Dyer, 201. See also Hob. 5.
  • Vastly inferior as this Court is to the House of Commons, considered as a body in the State, and amenable as its members may be for illconduct in their office to its animadversions and certainly are to its impeachment before the Lords, yet, as a Court of law, we know no superior but those Courts which may revise our judgments for error; and in this respect there is no common term of comparison between this Court and the House.
    • Coleridge, J., Stockdale v. Hansard (1837), 3 St. Tr. (N. S.) 931. "I have yet to learn that this Court is to be restrained by the dignity or the power of anybody, however exalted, from fearlessly, though respectfully, examining their reasonableness and justice, where the rights of third parties, in litigation before us, depend upon their validity". Coleridge, J., id.
  • The Judges are totally independent of the ministers that may happen to be, and of the King himself.
    • Lord Mansfield, Proceedings against the Dean of St. Asaph (1783), 21 How. St. Tr. 1040.
  • The act of a single Judge, unless adopted by the Court to which he belongs, is of no validity. As the Courts do not sit in vacation, many things are done by the Judges individually; but their acts, when recognised, become the acts of the Court.
  • I cannot properly give advice to anybody. It is very often supposed Judges can give advice, and I therefore take this public opportunity of saying that a Judge cannot do it.
  • If we give an opinion, we can't give a judgment: you can't come here for an opinion to us.
    • Lord Mansfield, The King v. Inhabitants of the West Riding of Yorkshire (1773), Lofft. 238.
  • Many judges have avoided giving extra judicial opinions.
    • Heath, J., Aubert v. Maze (1801), 1 Bos. & Pull. 375.
  • Certainly the opinion of all the Judges of later times, must have more weight than the extra-judicial opinion of a single Judge at any former time.
    • John Pratt, L.C.J., Layer's Case (1722), 16 How. St. Tr. 112.
  • I honour the King; and respect the people1: but, many things acquired by the favour of either, are, in my account, objects not worth ambition. I wish popularity, but it is that popularity which follows; not that which is run after. It is that popularity which, sooner or later, never fails to do justice to the pursuit of noble ends, by noble means. I will not do that which my conscience tells me is wrong, upon this occasion, to gain the huzzas of thousands, or the daily praise of all the papers which come from the press: I will not avoid doing what I think is right, though it should draw on me the whole artillery of libels; all that falsehood and malice can invent, or the credulity of a deluded populace can swallow.1 I can say, with a great magistrate, upon an occasion and under circumstances not unlike, "Ego hoc animo semper fui, ut invidiam virtute partam, gloriam, haud infamiam, putarem."
    • Lord Mansfield, Case of John Wilkes (1763), 19 How. St. Tr. 1112, 1113; 8. C. 4 Burr. Part IV. 2562. Compare: "Fear God, Honour the King." 1 Peter ii., 17.
  • My lords, I have heard of those who have expressed more wishes for popularity than ever I felt. I have heard it said, and I think it was in this Court, that they 'would have popularity: but it should be that popularity which follows, not that which is sought after.' My lords, I am proud enough to despise them both. If popularity should offer itself to me, I would speedily take care to kick it away.
    • In reference to Lord Mansfield's judgment quoted above. See Horne's Address in the Court of King's Bench, 20 How. St. Tr. 785.
  • A popular Judge is a deformed thing :and plaudites are fitter for players than for magistrates. Do good to the people ; love them, and give them justice; but let it be as the psalm says, 'nihil inde expectantes,' looking for nothing, neither praise nor profit.
    • Bacon, Speech in the Star Chamber before the Summer Circuits (1617), Bacon's Works, Vol. VI., 141, 194, 244.
  • Draw your learning out of your books, not out of your brain. Mix well the freedom of your opinion with the reverence of the opinion of your fellows. Continue the studying of your books, and do not spend on upon the old stock. Fear no man's face, yet turn not stoutness into bravery. Be a light to Jurors to open their eyes, not a guide to lead them by the noses. Affect not the opinion of pregnancy and expedition by an impatient and catching hearing of the counsellors at the bar. Let your speech be with gravity, as one of the sages of the law, and not talkative, nor with impertinent flying out to show learning. Contain the jurisdiction of your Court within the ancient mere-stones, without removing the mark.
    • Bacon, Bacon's Works, Vol. IV., 497; quoted by Sir Robert Atkyns in Rex. v. Williams (1695), 13 How. St. Tr. 1430.
  • Sachez le vous qe nous ne froms nul tort a nul, pur vous ne pur altre: Know you this, that we will do no wrong to any one, neither for you nor for any one else.
    • Berrewik, J., Henry Le Moys v. A. (1302), Y.B. 30 & 31 Ed. I., p. 158.
  • The world will never allow any man that character which he gives to himself by openly professing it to those with whom he converseth. Wit, learning, valour, acquaintance, the esteem of good men, will be known although we should endeavour to conceal them, however they may pass unrewarded: but I doubt our own bare assertions upon any of these points, will be of very little avail, except in tempting the hearers to judge directly contrary to what we advance.
    • Swift, 4 Burrow, 2562—2563.
  • Fear not to do right to all, and to deliver your verdicts justly according to the laws; for feare is nothing but a betraying of the succours that reason should afford: and if you shall sincerely execute justice, be assured of three things:
    1. Though some may maligne you, yet God will give you his blessing.
    2. That though thereby you may offend great men, and favourites, yet you shall have the favourable kindness of the Almighty, and be his favourites.
    3. And lastly, that in so doing, against all scandalous complaints, and pregmatical devices against you, God will defend you as with a shield: 'For thou, Lord, wilt give a blessing unto the righteous, and with thy favourable kindnesse wilt thou defend him, as with a shield.'
    • Edward Coke, 4 Inst., Epilogue.
  • As long as we have to administer the law we must do so according to the law as it is. We are not here to make the law.
  • We are sitting in a Court of law, and are bound to give a legal decision.
    • Grose, J., Doe v. Staple (1788), 2 T. R. 700.
  • For God's sake, do not put us on making law.
    • Keating, L.CJ., Case of John Price and others (1689), 12 How. St. Tr. 625.
  • We cannot make a law, we must go according to the law. That must be our rule and direction.
    • Holt, C.J., Parkyns' Case (1696), 13 How. St. Tr. 72. Compare: "We cannot make laws". Holt, C.J., Reg. v. Nash (1703), 2 Raym. 990; Powell, J., Queen v. Read (1706), Fortesc. 99.
  • Our duty is simply to administer the law as we find it.
    • Grove, J., Scaltock v. Hartson (1875), L. R. 1 Com. PI. 109. Compare: "A Judge has nothing to do but to administer the law as he finds it". Jessel, M.R., Bunting v. Sargent (1879), L. R. 13 C. D. 335.
  • The Judges do not make the law; they administer it, and that however much they may disapprove or dislike it.
    • Lopes, L.J., The Queen v. Bishop of London (1889), L. R. 24 Q. B. 246.
  • A Judge cannot set himself above the law which he has to administer, or make or mould it to suit the exigencies of a particular occasion.
  • Judicis est jus dieere non dare: It is for the Judge to administer, not to make laws.
    • Lofft. 42.
  • It is the duty of the Judge to decide according to law.
    • Jessel, M.R., Smith v. Day (1882), L. R. 21 C. D. 431.
  • Though in many other countries every thing is left in the breast of the Judge to determine, yet with us he is only to declare and pronounce, not to make or new-model, the law.
  • We have to administer the law whether we like it or no.
  • The cause is before us; we are sworn to decide it according to our notions of the law; we do not bring it here; and, being here, a necessity is laid upon us to deliver judgment; that judgment we can receive at the dictation of no power: we may decide the case erroneously; but we cannot be guilty of any contempt in deciding it according to our consciences.
    • Coleridge, J., Stockdale v. Hansard (1837), 3 St. Tr (N. S.) 945.
  • If I am to pronounce a judgment at all in this or in any other case, it must and shall be the judgment of my own mind, applying the law of the land as I understand it according to the best of my abilities, and with regard to the oath which I have taken to administer justice truly and impartially.
    • Littledale, J., Stockdale v. Hansard (1837), 3 St. Tr.'(N. S.)911.
  • I commend the Judge that seems fine and ingenious, so it tend to right and equity. And I condemn them, that either out of pleasure to shew a subtil wit will destroy, or out of incuriousness or negligence will not labour to support the act of the party by the art or act of the law.
  • We do not conceive the law, but we know the law.
    • Popham, C.J., Trial of Sir Walter Raleigh (1603), 2 How. St. Tr. 18.
  • I must lay down the law as I understand it, and as I read it in books of authority.
  • I am bound by my oath to abide by the law, and I cannot suffer anybody to derogate from it.
    • Giles Rooke, J., Redhead alias Yorke's Case (1795), 25 How. St. Tr. 1083.
  • I will consider it upon the Precedents; upon the circumstances of this case; and upon the Reason of the thing.
    • Lord Mansfield, Rex v. Corporation of Wigan (1758), 2 Burr. Part. IV., p. 784.
  • We cannot alter the law, we are bound by our oaths to proceed according to the law as it is at present.
    • Holt, C.J., Parkyns' Case (1696), 13 How. St. Tr. 73.
  • We must not be guilty of taking the law into our own hands, and converting it from what it really is to what we think it ought to be.
  • If no reason had been given, the authority might have had more weight: but, to be sure, the reason is a false one.
  • Reasons of public benefit and convenience weigh greatly with me.
    • Lord Hardwicke, Lawton v. Lawton (1743), 3 Atk. 16.
  • As a rule, Judges give reasons, though in many of the old cases the Judges gave no reasons1; but where no reasons are given for a particular decision, it becomes extremely difficult for a Judge to follow it, because he does not know the principle on which the decision proceeded.
    • Jessel, M.R., In re Merceron (1877), L. R. 7 C. D. 187.
  • A person who had been appointed to a Judgeship in some distant part of the Empire, applied to his lordship for advice how to act, as he was totally ignorant of the law. Give your judgments, said Lord Mansfield, but give no reasons. As you are a man of integrity, sound sense, and information, it is more than an even chance that your judgments will be right; but as you are ignorant of the law, it is ten to one that your reasons will be wrong.
    • A well-known anecdote of Lord Mansfield. see Case of Benjamin Flower (1799), 27 How. St. Tr. 1060.
  • Wise and learned men do before they judge, labour to reach to the depth of all the reasons of the case in question, but in their judgments express not any: and in troth if Judges should set down the reasons and causes of their judgments within every record, that immense labour should withdraw them from the necessary services of the commonwealth, and their records should grow to be like Elephantinl libri of infinite length, and in mine opinion lose somewhat of their present authority and reverence; and this is also worthy for learned and grave men to imitate. But mine advice is, that when soever a man is enforced to yield a reason of his opinion or judgment, that then he set down all authorities, precedents, reasons, arguments and inferences whatsoever that may be probably applied to the case in question; for some will be persuaded or drawn by one, and some by another, according as the capacity or understanding of the hearer or reader is.
    • Coke, L.C.J., 2 Rep. vi.
  • Chancellor Michael De La Pole did not at first resort to the expedient of handing over the seal to a legal keeper to act as his judicial deputy; and as he is said to have performed well in the Court of Chancery, he must have been like some of the military Chancellors in our West India Islands, who by discretion, natural good sense, taking hints from the clerks in Court, and giving no reasons for their decrees (according to the advice of Lord Mansfield to a military man going to Jamaica to sit as Chancellor) have very creditably performed the duties of their office.
    • Lord Campbell, reported in Lives of the Lord Chancelors, Vol. I., 3rd ed. 28.
  • Judices non tenentwr exprimere eausam sententue sute: Judges are not bound to explain the reason of their sentence.
    • Jenk. Cent. 75.
  • The subject being unusual, I fear that I shall not make myself intelligible, but I will do my endeavour, that the reasons of our judgment may be apprehended.
    • Holt, C.J., B. v. Knight and Burton (1699), 1 Raym. 527.
  • It is not only a justice due to the Crown and the party, in every criminal cause where doubts arise, to weigh well the grounds and reasons of the judgment; but it is of great consequence to explain them with accuracy and precision in open Court, especially if the questions be of a general tendency, and upon topics never before fully considered and settled, that the criminal law of the land may be certain and known.
  • One does not like to differ from a man without knowing the reasons which influenced him.
  • Let us consider the reason of the case. For nothing is law that is not reason.
    • Powell, J., Coggs v. Barnard (1703), 2 Ray. 911.
  • I believe that an experienced lawyer may be, as it were, instinctively right without at the moment being able to give a good reason for his opinion.
    • Lord Bramwell, Mills v. Armstrong (1888), 57 L. J. P. C. Cas. 70.
  • I never give a judicial opinion upon any point, until I think I am master of every material argument and authority relative to it. It is not only a justice due to the Crown and the party, in every criminal cause where doubts arise, to weigh well the grounds and reasons of the judgment; but it is of great consequence, to explain them with accuracy and precision, in open Court; especially if the questions be of a general tendency, and upon topics never before fully considered and settled; that the criminal law of the land may be certain and known.
    • Lord Mansfield, Wilkes' Case (1769), 4 Burr. Part IV., 2549; 19 How. St. Tr. 1098.
  • My brothers differ from me in opinion, and they all differ from one another in the reasons of their opinion; but notwithstanding their opinion, I think the plaintiff ought to recover, and that this action is well maintainable and ought to lie. I will consider their reasons.
    • Bolt, C.J., Ashby v. White (1703), 2 Raym. 950.
  • The Court will not keep back their opinion without having sufficient ground for doubting, and a necessity of taking time to satisfy their doubts: on the other hand, they will not give their opinions over-hastily and prematurely, merely to gratify the humours or passions of mankind.
    • Richard Aston, J., Rex v. Wilkes (1770), Hilary Term 10 Geo. 3. B. R.
  • As I find that my brothers are of a different opinion from me, I submit to their authority.
    • Eyre, L.C.J., Brandon v. Pate (1794), 2 H. B. 311.
  • I am so unfortunate as to differ a second time from my brethren, but I am bound by my opinion, and it is my duty to deliver it.
    • Eyre, L.C.J., Bencough v. Rossiter (1795), 2 H. B. 426.
  • You shall have my judgment presently; but my brothers are to speak first.
    • Wright, L.C.J., Case of the Seven Bishops (1688), 12 How. St. Tr. 274.
  • My judgment ought to be given for the plaintiff : but my brothers are all of another opinion, and so I submit to it. The defendant must have his judgment.
    • Holt, C.J., Philips v. Bury (1694), 2 T. fi. 358.
  • For the sake of general convenience, I am not sorry that the rest of the Court are of a contrary opinion.
    • Grose, J., Bead v. Brookman (1789), 3 T. B. 162.
  • Whatever doubts I had, I submit to the authority of the other Judges.
    • Giles Rooke, J., Mitchell v. Cockburne (1794), 2 H. B. 382.
  • In the course which the case is now about to take my opinion becomes worthless. I am bound to assume that I am wrong in point of law. Your lordships' judgment settles the law finally, and in yielding a willing obedience I have, at least, the palliation for mistake in law that I have erred in company with the Lord President, the Lord Justice Clerk, and four other able and eminent Scotch Judges.
    • Lord Fitzgerald, Cami v. Sime (1887), L. R. 12 App. Ca. 359.
  • This is the first instance of a final difference of opinion in this Court since I sat here. Every Order, Bule, Judgment, and Opinion has hitherto beenn unanimous. That unanimity never could have happened if we did not among ourselves communicate our sentiments with great freedom; if we did not form our judgments without any prepossession to first thoughts; if we were not always open to conviction, and ready to yield to each other's reasons. We have all equally endeavoured at that unanimity, upon this occasion: we have talked the matter over several times. I have communicated my thoughts at large in writing : and I have read the three arguments which have been now delivered. In short, we have equally tried to convince or be convinced: but, in vain. We continue to differ. And whoever is right, each is bound to abide by and deliver that opinion which he has formed upon the fullest examination.
  • To be sure, it is a very important case, though very imperfectly reported in the printed cases, which make an impossibility, by making the senior Judge speak first.
  • Whenever there is a real likelihood that the Judge would, from kindred or any other cause, have a bias in favour of one of the parties, it would be very wrong in him to act, and we are not to be understood to say that where there is a real bias of this sort this Court would not interfere.
    • Blackburn, J., Reg. v. Rand (1867), L. R. 1 Q. B. 230.
  • Pur dishonest Judgm't Judges povent estre punv. Mirror de Justices report que 44 fueront pendus pur cest cause: For dishonest judgment Judges may be punished. Mirror of Justices reports that 44 were hanged for this cause.
    • John Vaughan, J., Bushel's Case (1670), Jones's (Sir Thos.) Rep. 15.
  • If I was wrong, I should think it more honourable to acknowledge and rectify any error that I should have committed, than to justify and defend it.
  • I think that it is a matter of public policy that, so far as is possible, judicial proceedings shall not only be free from actual bias or prejudice of the Judges, but that they shall be free from the suspicion of bias or prejudice.
    • Fry, L.J., Leeson v. General Council of Medical Education, &c. (1889), L. R. 43 C. D. 390.
  • It is impossible for us English lawyers, dealing with the English language, to express our views except in the technical language of our law.
    • Kekewich, J., Lauri v. Renad (1892), L. R. 3 C. D. [1892], p. 413.
  • I believe it is understood that though, when the Judges are unanimous, the Chief Justice delivers the opinion of the Court, yet the other justices are not presumed to adopt and concur with every doctrine that falls from him, in the course of that opinion.
    • Douglas on Elections (ed. 1775), Introduction, p. 39.
  • Judges are not bound to travel beyond the facts stated in cases, and, as a general rule, such a practice would be inconvenient.
    • Day, J., Durham County Council v. Chester-le-Street Union (1890), 60 L. J. Rep. (N. S.) Mag. Cas. 12.
  • Judges are more to be trusted as interpreters of the law than as expounders of what is called public policy.
    • Cave, J., In re Mirans; Ex parte Official Receiver (1891), 60 L. J. Rep. (N. S.) Q. B. 399.
  • In former years, and down to times within my recollection, Judges of what used to be the common law Courts of this realm delighted in applying, rigidly and strictly, a series of rules and maxims which their predecessors had delighted themselves in devising, although they did not always commend themselves to the apprehension of the million.
    • James, L.J., Ashworth v. Outram (1877), 5 L. R. Ch. D. 941.
  • I think we ought to adhere to those ancient forms which have been perfected by the wisdom of ages and confirmed in their utility by the experience of many centuries.
    • Best, J., Orton v. Butler (1822), 2 Chit. Rep. 350.
  • If I must either attribute to some Judges a reverence more for the letter than the spirit, caution carried too far, an over-anxiousness to keep themselves within the most clearly - defined limits of their authority, or ascribe to others an arbitrary and unwarrantable assumption of legislative power, I elect the former.
    • Knight-Bruce, L.J., Boyse v. Rossborough (1854), 23 L. J. Rep. Part 5 (N. S.) Ch., p. 331.
  • I am not now going, and I do not suppose that any Judge will ever do so, to lay down a rule which, so to say, will tie the hands of the Court.
    • Pearson, J., Holland v. Worley (1884), L. R. 26 C. D. 584.
  • I am far from being such a Judge as shall lay any intolerable yoke upon any one's neck.
    • Holt, C.J., Philips v. Bury (1694), 2 T. R. 358.
  • In the judgments which Judges pronounce, this is inevitable, that, having their minds full, not only of the cases before them, but of the principles involved in the cases which have been referred to, it very often happens that a Judge, in stating as much as is necessary to decide the case before him, does not express all that may be said upon the subject. That leaves the judgment open sometimes to misconstruction, and enables ingenious advocates, by taking out certain passages, to draw conclusions which the Judge never meant to be drawn from the words he used.
    • Sir James Bacon, V.-C, Green's Case (1874), L. R. 18 Eq. Ca. 433.
  • It certainly is very hard upon a Judge, if a rule which he generally lays down, is to be taken up and carried to its full extent. This is sometimes done by counsel, who have nothing else to rely on; but great caution ought to be used by the Court in extending such maxims to cases which the Judge who uttered them never had in contemplation. If such is the use to be made of them, I ought to be very cautious how I lay down general maxims from this bench.
    • Mansfield, C.J., Brisbane v. Dacres (1813), 5 Taunt. 162.
  • In my opinion it is very important that one Judge should not attempt to draw fine distinctions between cases before him and similar cases decided by another Judge. Practitioners are much embarrassed by minute differences between the decisions of different Judges, and it is very important to follow a line of procedure which has been already laid down.
    • Fry, J., In re Symons; Luke v. Tonkin (1882), L. R. 21 C. D. 761.
  • If once our Courts of Justice come to be awed or swayed by vulgar noise, and if judges and juries should manage themselves so as would best comply with the humour of the times, it is falsely said that men are tried for their lives or fortunes; they live by chance, and enjoy what they have as the wind blows, and with the same certainty. Let us pursue the plot a God's name, and not baulk anything where there is danger or suspicion upon reasonable grounds; but not so overdo it, as to show our zeal, we will pretend to find what is not; nor stretch one thing beyond what it will bear, to reach another.
    • Scroggs, L.C.J., Speech on the first day of Michaelmas Term (1679), 16 How. St. Tr. 242.
  • It is not fair to criticise every line and letter of a summing-up which has been delivered by a Judge in trying a case, especially when there is a somewhat imperfect record of it.
  • I will not be influenced by any judgment that is founded either on fear or favour.
    • Willes, L.C.J., Welles v. Trahern (1740), Willes' Rep. 240.
  • The character of the Judges is public property, and if they have done anything amiss, they ought to be censured. But if not, their characters ought to be respected; otherwise the most mischievous consequences will arise to the public.
  • We that do sit here, do move in a sphere, and should be like the primum mobile, according to whom all others are to steer their course; and Judges themselves must move steadily upon their right poles, as I hope this Court will. What Judge soever he be that is elevated by popular applause,1 or animated by the contrary, to accumulate honour, is fitter to live "in fceee Romuli guam in politia Angliee." Nor will I lose time in remembering the first oath of a Judge, who should expel all by-respects, and speak his conscience. I hope none of us forget the duty we owe to God, to the King, and to the commonwealth, and to ourselves. I shall endeavour to satisfy my conscience in all that I can say. And they forget their duty to the first, and humanity towards us, that say or think the contrary of any one of us. Some of us have fortunes and posterities, and therein have given hostages to the commonwealth. . . . Those that want those blessings, want those temptations that make dream of, or hunt for honour or riches, to perpetuate their names and families; to them nothing can be more precious than the balm of integrity, which will preserve their names and memories. It cannot be presumed, but we will speak our consciences, since we well know shortly, as the psalmist says, " Corruption shall say, I am thy father, and the worm, I am thy mother."
    • Finch, L.C J., Hampden's Case (1637), 3 How. St. Tr. 1217.
  • I will tell you we are bound to be of counsel with you, in point of law; that is, the Court, my brethren and myself, are to see that you suffer nothing for your want of knowledge in matter of law.
    • Hyde, C. J., Twyn's Case (1663), 6 How. St, Tr. 516.
  • I have been reminded that I sit here as counsel for the defendant. I certainly do so, so far as to interpose between him and the counsel for the prosecution, and to see that no improper use of the law is made against him, and that no improper evidence is given to the jury: but the Judge has another task to perform, which is that of assisting the jury in the administration of justice.
    • Lord Kenyon, Wakefield's Case (1799), 27 How. St. Tr. 736.
  • It is sometimes said—erroneously, as I think—that the Judge should be counsel for the prisoner; but at least he must take care that the prisoner is not convicted on any but legal evidence.
    • Wills, J., Reg. v. Gibson (1887), 18 Q. B. D. 537; 16 Cox, C. C. 181.
  • Gentlemen, I speak for myself as well as for you: I never read anything about what may come before me in a Court of Justice; I keep my mind free from everything of the kind. There is often a necessity for me to look into the law: but I never suffer my mind to be biassed by reports, or such papers or pamphlets as are written with a view to pervert justice.
  • I pass over many anonymous letters I have received. Those in print are public: and some of them have been brought judicially before the Court. Whoever the writers are, they take the wrong way. I will do my duty, unawed. What am I to fear? That mendax infamia from the press, which daily coins false facts and false motives? The lies of calumny carry no terror to me. I trust, that my temper of mind, and the colour and conduct of my life, have given me a suit of armour against these arrows.

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