Why Do Judges Wear Black Robes?

Why Do Judges Wear Black Robes?

Have you ever wondered why judges always wear black robes? Chief Justice John Marshall started this tradition. Our article will explore the history and significance behind the iconic black robe, providing insight into this judicial practice.

Keep reading to uncover the mystery!

Key Takeaways

  • Chief Justice John Marshall started the tradition of judges wearing black robes in the early 19th century to promote neutrality and uniformity in the courtroom.
  • The black robe symbolizes impartiality and unity within the judiciary, reinforcing that justice is blind and highlighting everyone's equality before the law.
  • This tradition has deep roots in history, evolving from English common law where colonial judges also wore black, signifying a shift from personal expression to embodying an authoritative figure in court proceedings.
  • Throughout changes in society and fashion over centuries, the practice of judges wearing black robes persists as a powerful symbol of justice, emphasizing their commitment to uphold the Constitution and maintain rule of law across all federal and state courts in America.
  • Despite no formal rules mandating this attire on the bench, legal professionals like attorneys, clerks, and jurists continue to value these robes for what they represent about American judicial system’s foundation on fairness and impartiality.


History of Judges Wearing Black Robes


The practice of judges donning black robes has deep roots in history, tracing back to the early 19th century with Chief Justice John Marshall setting a precedent in the Supreme Court.

He chose a simple black robe for his investiture, marking a pivotal moment that influenced future judicial attire. This decision steered away from the previously colorful robes worn by justices, which represented their alma maters.

Marshall’s choice symbolized neutrality and uniformity, emphasizing the law over individual or educational affiliations.

Before this shift in the United States, English common law had already established a tradition where colonial judges wore black. The transition towards black judicial robes mirrored an evolution from personal expression to embodying an impartial and authoritative figure within the courtroom.

The symbolism of the black robe became synonymous with justice and fairness, laying down a foundational aspect of judicial decorum that persists today. This longstanding tradition underscores the importance placed on maintaining dignity and respect for the court's role in society.

Significance of the Black Robe in Judicial Proceedings


Judges don black robes to symbolize the impartiality and unity of the judiciary. This tradition underscores a core principle: that justice is blind. It visually reinforces the idea that in court, everyone stands equal before the law, regardless of their position or status outside the courtroom.

Wearing these simple yet significant garments, judges demonstrate their commitment to dispensing justice without personal bias, acting as one cohesive body interpreting and enforcing laws based on established legal precedents.

This symbolism extends beyond mere attire; it shapes public perception and trust in the judicial system. Judicial robes serve as a constant reminder that law reigns supreme over individual opinion or societal biases.

They hold an essential function not just for those within the judicial realm—such as supreme court justices including John Roberts, Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett—but also for anyone coming into contact with this system seeking fairness and justice.

As society evolves, these black robes remain a steadfast emblem of equity and uniformity within American courts.

Current Perspectives on the Tradition of Judges Wearing Black Robes


Many people see the black robes worn by judges as a powerful symbol of justice. These robes represent the idea that justice is blind, emphasizing that all judges approach the law in a similar manner.

This uniformity in attire, adopted from English colonial judges and deeply rooted in tradition, underscores their commitment to uphold the Constitution and maintain the rule of law.

Despite changes in society and fashion over centuries, this tradition persists across every federal and state court in America. Legal professionals like attorneys, clerks, and jurists continue to value these black robes for what they signify about the American judicial system.

While there are no formal rules mandating this choice of apparel on the bench, it's clear that this tradition will likely carry on due to its strong ties to America's legal foundations and its significance in promoting impartiality within the courts.



Judges wear black robes as a symbol of their commitment to justice and impartiality. This tradition, started by Chief Justice John Marshall, underscores the unity and anonymity in upholding the law above personal views.

Through these simple yet profound garments, judges across the United States reflect their dedication to the Constitution and legal principles. The continued use of black judicial robes proudly honors America's rich history and its deep-rooted values in the legal system.

Such attire reminds us that in the eyes of justice, everyone stands equal.


1. Why do judges wear black robes in court?

Judges wear black robes as a tradition that symbolizes the impartiality and solemnity of the judicial process. This practice helps maintain a formal atmosphere during court proceedings.

2. When did judges start wearing black robes?

The tradition of judges wearing black robes began in England and was adopted by the United States, including at the Supreme Court, to reflect the seriousness and dignity of their positions.

3. Are there any exceptions to judges wearing black robes?

Yes, while most judges in the United States wear black robes, some may choose different colors or styles for specific types of cases or during certain ceremonies to signify their unique roles or jurisdictions.

4. Do all countries have judges wear black robes?

No, not all countries follow this practice. The color and style of judicial attire can vary significantly from one country to another, reflecting each nation's legal traditions and cultural heritage.

5. Has there been any significant discussion about changing the traditional judge's robe color?

While discussions about modernizing courtroom attire occasionally arise among legal professionals and lawmakers like Sen. Ted Cruz or Elena Kagan, the traditional black robe remains a strong symbol of justice in many courts around the world.