THE ADVOCATE 625
VOL. 79 PART 4 JULY 2021
By Kevin Smith* & Ludmila B. Herbst, Q.C.†
PUBLIC MOURNING AT COURT, AND FLOWERS FOR THE JUDGE
Wearing Sadness on Your Sleeve: Mourning Bands, Weepers and Public
Mourning at Court
By Kevin Smith
Mention “weepers” to junior counsel, and they may assume you are referring
to the tearful all-nighters spent toiling under the heavy cosh of that
infamous senior partner in the build-up to a major trial. The true meaning
is similarly sombre, and perhaps equally well established in legal tradition.
Following the recent passing of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, U.K.
legal social media was abuzz with speculation about whether the Chief Justice
would order the wearing of “mourning bands and weepers”: the traditional
courtroom attire during a period of official court mourning.
“Mourning bands” are a variation of ordinary bands—better known in
Canada as “tabs”—but with each side folded over at the edge and in the centre
to make pleats, which were said to give them a darker, more sombre
look. “Weepers” are white cuffs sewn onto the barrister’s waistcoat, ostensibly
to allow the wearer to dry their eyes. Mourning bands and weepers
would be worn by judges and Q.C.’s (or, in times past, K.C.’s), whereas junior
counsel1 wore mourning bands alone—perhaps inviting an inference that
the latter were less lachrymose than their senior colleagues, or at least
more reserved in their displays of ritualized lament.
* Kevin Smith is a senior associate at Farris LLP. He is qualified as a solicitor in England and Wales, and prior to returning
to British Columbia, he practised with Clifford Chance LLP in London.
† Ludmila B. Herbst, Q.C., is a partner at Farris LLP and the assistant editor of the Advocate.