The abilities required in a good interpreter of the law, that is to say, in a good judge, are not the same with those of an advocate; namely, the study of the laws.
For a judge, as he ought to take notice of the fact from none but the witnesses, so also he ought to take notice of the law from nothing but the statutes and constitutions of the sovereign, alleged in the pleading, or declared to him by some that have authority from the sovereign power to declare them; and need not take care beforehand what he shall judge; for it shall be given him what he shall say concerning the fact, by witnesses; and what he shall say in point of law, from those that shall in their pleadings show it, and by authority interpret it upon the place.
The Lords of Parliament in England were judges, and most difficult causes have been heard and determined by them; yet few of them were much versed in the study of the laws, and fewer had made profession of them; and though they consulted with lawyers that were appointed to be present there for that purpose, yet they alone had the authority of giving sentence.
In like manner, in the ordinary trials of right, twelve men of the common people are the judges and give sentence, not only of the fact, but of the right; and pronounce simply for the complainant or for the defendant; that is to say, are judges not only of the fact, but also of the right; and in a question of crime, not only determine whether done or not done, but also whether it be murder, homicide, felony, assault, and the like, which are determinations of law: but because they are not supposed to know the law of themselves, there is one that hath authority to inform them of it in the particular case they are to judge of. But yet if they judge not according to that he tells them, they are not subject thereby to any penalty; unless it be made appear they did it against their consciences, or had been corrupted by reward.
The things that make a good judge or good interpreter of the laws are,
first, a right understanding of that principal law of nature called equity; which, depending not on the reading of other men’s writings, but on the goodness of a man’s own natural reason and meditation, is presumed to be in those most that had most leisure, and had the most inclination to meditate thereon.
Secondly, contempt of unnecessary riches and preferments.
Thirdly, to be able in judgement to divest himself of all fear, anger, hatred, love, and compassion. Fourthly, and lastly, patience to hear, diligent attention in hearing, and memory to retain, digest, and apply what he hath heard.
[Formatted for ease of reading]