Duhaime's Timetable of World Legal History: 1660: Matthew Hale's 18 Rules for Judges

1660: Matthew Hale's 18 Rules for Judges

In 1660, when Matthew Hale (1609-1676) was appointed to be Court of Exchequer in England, he took a moment to write out a series of 18 rules to govern his conduct as judge.

In 1671, he was promoted Lord Chief Justice of the court of King's Bench where, again, he perchance promoted his rules.

Himself the son of a barrister, Justice Hale knew the profession well as his profession grew to know his rules well. His rules served as rules of conduct for British judges for over 200 years.

John Campbell, who later became Lord Campbell when he was elevated to the position of Lord Chancellor (Chief Justice) of England in 1859, he said that Hale’s 18 Rules:

“... ought to be inscribed in letters of gold on the walls of Westminster Hall, as a lesson to those entrusted with the administration of justice.”

Hale fell ill in 1675 and had to resign his judgeship. According to Campbell, he wrote a note to his heirs before he died wishing that he had spent less time on the law and more time “in a pious contemplative life”.

His 1660 rules for judges:

"1. That in the administration of justice, I am intrusted for God, the king, and country; and therefore:

2. That it be done, I, uprightly, deliberately, resolutely;

3. That I rest not upon my own understanding or strength, but implore and rest upon the direction and strength of God.

4. That in the execution of justice I carefully lay aside my own passions, and not give way to them, however provoked.

5. That I be wholly intent upon the business I am about, remitting all other cares and thoughts as unseasonable, and interruptions.

6. That I suffer not myself to be prepossessed with any judgment at all, till the whole business and both parties be heard.Matthew Hale

7. That I never engage myself in the beginning of any cause, but reserve myself unprejudiced till the whole be heard.

8. That in business capital, though my nature prompt me to pity, yet to consider there is a pity also due to the country.

9. That it be not too rigid in matters purely conscientious, where all the harm is diversity of judgment.

10. That it be not biased with compassion for the poor, or favor to the rich, in point of justice.

11. That popular or court applause, or distaste, have no influence in anything I do, in point of distribution of justice.

12. Not to be solicitous what men will say or think, so long as I keep myself exactly according to the rule of justice.

13. If in criminals it be a measuring cast, to incline to mercy and acquittal.

14. In criminals that consist merely in words, we are no more harm ensues, moderation is no injustice.

15. In criminals of blood, if the fact be evident, severity is justice.

16. To abhor all private solicitations, of what kinds soever, and by whomsoever, in matters depending.

17. To charge my servants, I, not to interpose in any manner whatsoever; not to take more than their known fees; not to give any undue precedence to causes; not to recommend counsel.

18. To be short and sparing at meals, that I may be the fitter for business."

REFERENCES:

  • Campbell, John, Lives of the Chief Justices
  • Warvelle, G., essays in legal ethics (Chicago: Callaghan & Co., 1902), pages 207-209

Published: Monday, March 29, 2010
Last updated: Monday, November 11, 2013
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