Courting formality

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 September, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 September, 2003, 12:00am

Called as a witness in a recent civil case in Hong Kong, I observed first-hand some of the courtroom procedures referred to in recent letters.

What struck me forcibly was the atmosphere of the courtroom. Compared with the US, where I would characterise the atmosphere, using an analogy, as smart casual, here it was very definitely 'black tie'.

The tone was set from the moment the clerk of the court entered, head bowed like a character from Dickens and solemnly intoned that all should rise. On cue, the judge swept into the room scarcely recognisable behind her wig and gown.

It is strange that counsel should wear the same garments as judges. Stranger still, to an American, is that their language and mannerisms are almost identical.

It is interesting, then, that the Hong Kong Bar Association, on its homepage listing its members, should use a photograph of wigged and gowned barristers side by side with wigged and gowned judges.