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Professional Pomposity

By John Hargreaves - 15 July 2014 22

magistrate-judge-wig

I reckon I can count the times I have agreed with Jack Waterford on one of my toes. Imagine my surprise when I found I agreed with what he was saying about the magistrates and their wanting to be addressed by the title Your Honour!
What errant pomposity and arrogance!

We see them appointed (not elected by us) so that they may sit in judgment of our deeds. Not to sit in an eyrie casting a disdainful look at us and our misdemeanours. They have no right to a privileged position in society just because they get to say whether we are guilty of some crime or another.

In my time as an MLA and a minister, I hated being called “Minister”. My parents gave me a first name and a surname. If calling me John was difficult, Mr Hargreaves would do fine. But I walked among many who basked in the sunlight of such titles. And check out the pomp and ceremony of the opening of federal and State Parliaments!

I guess we all know someone who we reckon is pompous or arrogant, but some professions seem to attract that sort. The legal profession is one of them and so is the medical profession. I had nearly 20 years working with the medics in this town and the more the specialty the more the elitism and pomposity and the need, yes need, for ceremony and deference. Academics are the same. And in my years in the Army gave me evidence pomposity in the exalted ranks of that bunch. (I only got to Corporal so I guess I had no leadership!)

What is it that makes men and women need to feel superior to others? Another gripe of mine in the same vein is the term Public Servant. This suggests an inferior position relative to other work classifications, trades or professions and it is not so. When I went into the PS in 1968, I was appointed an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service. It is a service to the Australian people to which I belonged but I was the servant of no-one.

How about a straw poll among rioters to see which profession/trade/service is the most pompous and arrogant?

Over to you…

PS: this is not an academic exercise, merely a conversation. Since we can all count to some degree, let’s put an end time on it and do the count in two weeks.

What’s Your opinion?


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22 Responses to
Professional Pomposity
1
VYBerlinaV8_is_back 9:11 am
15 Jul 14
#

What is it that makes men and women need to feel superior to others?

A sorry lack of self confidence would have to be one of the reasons.

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2
justin heywood 10:18 am
15 Jul 14
#

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

What is it that makes men and women need to feel superior to others?

A sorry lack of self confidence would have to be one of the reasons.

I don’t know about that. I’ve found that many of the most pompous have huge egos, probably combined with a niggling doubt as to their true worth. I’d say that insecurity is a more accurate reason.

You would think (or hope) that power would bestow some wisdom on people, but there is little evidence of it. The trouble is that we don’t give the power to the best of us, we give it to those who want it the most.

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3
John Hargreaves Ex M 11:09 am
15 Jul 14
#

justin heywood said :

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

What is it that makes men and women need to feel superior to others?

A sorry lack of self confidence would have to be one of the reasons.

I don’t know about that. I’ve found that many of the most pompous have huge egos, probably combined with a niggling doubt as to their true worth. I’d say that insecurity is a more accurate reason.

You would think (or hope) that power would bestow some wisdom on people, but there is little evidence of it. The trouble is that we don’t give the power to the best of us, we give it to those who want it the most.

Justin. Absolutely right! Those who want it most do unmentionable things to achieve it. Principles are compromised, bullying enters the field of human interaction,

Every now and then though, principled people rise to positions of influence. If they are really strong, they survive, if not, they are dealt with by those with more power or influence and shoved aside.

I don’t know if it is the human condition or something we can prevent…

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4
thatsnotme 11:09 am
15 Jul 14
#

justin heywood said :

I don’t know about that. I’ve found that many of the most pompous have huge egos, probably combined with a niggling doubt as to their true worth. I’d say that insecurity is a more accurate reason.

You would think (or hope) that power would bestow some wisdom on people, but there is little evidence of it. The trouble is that we don’t give the power to the best of us, we give it to those who want it the most.

My experience is that the extent to which attitudes like this are experienced are about as variable in judicial groups as the general public. Some people in everyday life are great people, and some are jerks – and this extends to judiciary as well. I’ve met and dealt with over 100 personally over the past decade or so, and some have been the most lovely, down to earth people you’ll ever meet. Some have been difficult and demanding. Same goes for the non-judicial staff I’ve dealt with too. I’ve dealt with regular staff who were rude and didn’t want to give me the time of day – even when I’m helping them – and I’ve dealt with judiciary who refuse to allow you to use anything but their first names, and are happy to help in any way possible.

I think generalising about the attitudes and manner of the judiciary is a waste of time. They’re as individualistic as everyone else.

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5
Mysteryman 11:21 am
15 Jul 14
#

You really do find the most inane things to “discuss”, John.

For a very long time in the English speaking world, magistrates, judges, and justices have been referred to as “Your Honour” or “Your Worship”. I don’t think there’s a problem with that. They get to their position by working hard, and being good at what they do. Is it really such a drama to refer to them in that way? The response from people like yourself is far more telling of who has a complex about superiority.

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6
notdingers 11:48 am
15 Jul 14
#

I know I will get flamed for this but I have to add it to the conversation.

Your Honour (or you worship or whatever) is used when addressing the court or the bench to show respect for he institution of the courts. The judge or magistrate is there as a representative of the “court” (i.e. the institution) and embodies the authority of the legal institution. So when calling them your honour, you are really showing respect for the court system, not them personally.

Judges don’t expect to be called your honour when they are outside the court, you call them Judge (like you call a doctor Dr).

Maybe it is an out of date practice (like wearing wigs and gowns) but do we really want people rocking up to court and saying “g’day mate, not guilty”?

I think there needs to be some level of formality to reflect the seriousness of the context.

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7
Mysteryman 12:23 pm
15 Jul 14
#

notdingers said :

I know I will get flamed for this but I have to add it to the conversation.

Your Honour (or you worship or whatever) is used when addressing the court or the bench to show respect for he institution of the courts. The judge or magistrate is there as a representative of the “court” (i.e. the institution) and embodies the authority of the legal institution. So when calling them your honour, you are really showing respect for the court system, not them personally.

Judges don’t expect to be called your honour when they are outside the court, you call them Judge (like you call a doctor Dr).

Maybe it is an out of date practice (like wearing wigs and gowns) but do we really want people rocking up to court and saying “g’day mate, not guilty”?

I think there needs to be some level of formality to reflect the seriousness of the context.

Agreed 100%.

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8
justin heywood 12:27 pm
15 Jul 14
#

notdingers said :

I think there needs to be some level of formality to reflect the seriousness of the context.

Yes, good point. But I think that what the OP is referring to is that some people believe that the deference is due to them and not simply to the institutions they represent. I think you should salute a General, obey him and call him ‘Sir’ while you’re serving in the army, but that same general should be just Frank when you see him at the pub on the weekend.

In my opinion, egalitarianism is one of the more endearing features of Australian culture, as is our general dislike of the idea of ‘putting on airs’. (and I’m looking at those barristers who cross London Circuit for coffee all gowned up.)

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9
Kent Street 12:52 pm
15 Jul 14
#

So then John, how did you address the speaker in the Legislative Assembly?
Would you be happy with Katy coming out with a casual “G’day Vicki”?

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10
breda 1:43 pm
15 Jul 14
#

Yep, it shows respect for the court, not the person. Just like when the defendant is expected to stand when being addressed by the presiding judicial officer. Just like the honorifics and formalities used in Parliament, which include standing when you are speaking, and addressing the presiding officer (and other MPs) by their title, not their name.

Outside that context, I agree that it is up to individuals how they are addressed – for example, once he took the wig off, everyone called the late Chief Justice of the Supreme Court “Terry”, including the garbo, the cleaner and the bar attendant :)

I don’t think it’s at all fair to generalise about other kinds of professionals, either. When I had dealings with a very distinguished medical specialist a few years ago (as his patient), we were on first name terms. But when I was in hospital, when talking to other staff, I referred to him as Dr X.

Context is everything.

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11
curmudgery 2:44 pm
15 Jul 14
#

John’s complaint seems egalitarianism misplaced.

Consider this: I, too, was once a Corporal in the Army. Officers in full uniform were saluted because ‘they held the Queen’s Commission’. It was also called ‘paying compliments’. If they weren’t wearing their hat, there was no salute because they weren’t in full uniform. Now, if you draped a full uniform over a chair, would you salute it? No, silly, it’s a chair! So, are you saluting the person or their Commission (or rank or position)? The answer is ‘both’.

In well-ordered societies (narrow or broad) we simply acknowledge the importance of certain foundational services and provide a mark of respect to persons who represent that service at the time. That’s all it is. It has nothing to do with class or worth.

It’s not a difficult concept: you just have to be older than 12, realise that you’re not working down the mines, and be able to cope with ideas that may not have algebraic precision.

If you want pomposity and arrogance, however, I suggest you watch out for anyone who uses a huge signature block in their correspondence – some PAs and Receptionists are notorious for it. Avoid, too, people who have ‘their colour’ – pink, purple and green seem to be favourites. Lastly, keep an eye on those who sign or initial every document in sight – it screams ‘Me!’

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12
breda 5:25 pm
15 Jul 14
#

curmudgery, as I understand it, in the military people salute the rank, not the person. That is the whole point. Saluting is not optional depending on whether or not you like or respect the individual. It is recognition of the legitimacy of the chain of command.

Magistrates deserve to be formally respected, because their courts deserve to be formally respected. Jack Waterford’s silly article fails to take into account what happened when the Family Court abolished wigs, robes and respectful behaviour in the Family Court. It just meant that litigants behaved even worse than they usually do, and judges were threatened and in at least one case, murdered.

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13
HiddenDragon 5:34 pm
15 Jul 14
#

In Sea Change, some of the errant Pearl Bay locals addressed Laura Gibson as Your Majesty – so that could be something to aim for…..

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14
Masquara 7:11 pm
15 Jul 14
#

HiddenDragon said :

In Sea Change, some of the errant Pearl Bay locals addressed Laura Gibson as Your Majesty – so that could be something to aim for…..

Sigrid Thornton, actually, and thinking about it still cracks me up!

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15
Masquara 7:59 pm
15 Jul 14
#

Masquara said :

HiddenDragon said :

In Sea Change, some of the errant Pearl Bay locals addressed Laura Gibson as Your Majesty – so that could be something to aim for…..

Sigrid Thornton, actually, and thinking about it still cracks me up!

Oh sorry, yeah, duh. Laura Gibson!

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