Compromised Judges Throughout History: Lessons from the Annals of Injustice- Dr Lawrence Mwelwa

According to Herodotus, Sisamnes was a corrupt judge under Cambyses II of Persia. He accepted a bribe and delivered an unjust verdict. As a result, the king had him arrested and flayed alive. His skin was then used to cover the seat in which his son would sit in judgment

Compromised Judges Throughout History: Lessons from the Annals of Injustice

By Dr Lawrence Mwelwa

In the annals of history, there have been judges whose names have become synonymous with compromise and unreliability. These are individuals whose decisions had catastrophic consequences for their nations, forever tarnishing their legacy. Let us take a journey through time and explore some of these compromised judges and the timeline in which they operated.

Our first stop takes us to Nazi Germany during World War II. Here we encounter Roland Freisler, a leading judge in the infamous People’s Court. Freisler’s decisions were heavily influenced by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime, resulting in unfair trials, harsh sentences, and widespread terror. His actions led to countless executions and struck fear into the hearts of those who sought justice.

Fast forward to the reign of King James II in England, and we come face to face with Lord Chancellor Jeffreys, also known as “Bloody Jeffreys.” During the aftermath of the failed Monmouth Rebellion, Jeffreys presided over the “Bloody Assizes,” where he administered brutal and biased trials. The result? Hundreds of executions and severe punishments that fueled public resentment and created chaos.

Venturing across the English Channel, we arrive in France during the reign of Louis XIV. Here, we encounter Nicholas Fouquet, a politician and judge who served as the Superintendent of Finances. However, his lavish lifestyle and extravagant spending raised eyebrows and led to accusations of embezzlement and misuse of funds. Fouquet’s downfall came in a highly publicized trial that showcased the discontent among the French nobility.

Returning to England, we delve into the life of Sir Francis Bacon, a philosopher and judge whose contributions to science and philosophy are overshadowed by his corrupt practices during his tenure as Lord Chancellor. Bacon’s acceptance of bribes and manipulation of judgments undermined the integrity of the legal system and stained his reputation as one of the most corrupt judges in history.

Our final stop takes us back to Nazi Germany, where we encounter Judge Leopold Gutterer, a Nazi Party member who actively participated in implementing racial and anti-Semitic policies. Gutterer’s decisions resulted in the deportation and execution of Jews, exemplifying his complete allegiance to the Nazi ideology. His actions contributed to the chaos and destruction caused by the regime.

These compromised judges throughout history serve as reminders of the importance of being on the right side of history. The role of a judge extends far beyond individual cases; it encompasses shaping and upholding the principles and values of a just society. Being on the right side of history is crucial for judges because it ensures the integrity and relevance of the legal system, protects individual rights, promotes social progress, preserves public trust, and allows them to leave a positive and meaningful legacy.

As we reflect on these compromised judges and the timeline in which they operated, we are reminded of the words of Richard Buckminster Fuller: “Integrity is the essence of everything successful.” It is indeed through integrity that judges can navigate the complexities of their roles and strive to be on the right side of history. Let us learn from the past and ensure that those who don the robe of justice are committed to upholding truth, fairness, and the well-being of society as a whole. Only then can we move forward and create a just world for generations to come.

As a judge or officer of the Court, undoubtedly, one would strive to be remembered in the annals of history for their unwavering integrity and dedication to upholding justice. The prospect of being regarded as one of the most compromised judges in Zambian history would certainly be disheartening and strays far from the ideals that should guide one’s legal career.

It is imperative for a judge or officer of the Court to always act impartially, fairly, and without any external influence. Being compromised not only taints the reputation of the individual, but also undermines the trust and confidence that society places in the judiciary. The role of a judge is to administer justice, ensuring that each case is decided solely based on the merits, the law, and devoid of any personal biases or corrupt motives.

Historical records should reflect judges who have upheld the principles of justice, showing dedication to the rule of law and safeguarding the rights and freedoms of all citizens. These individuals should be remembered for their adherence to ethical conduct, their ability to dispense fair judgments, and their impact in shaping a just society. Ultimately, their legacy should inspire future generations of judges and officers of the Court to remain steadfast in their commitment to upholding integrity, empathy, and fairness.

In conclusion, no judge or officer of the Court would aspire to be remembered as one of the most compromised judges in Zambian history. Instead, their aim should always be to preserve the noble ideals of justice, thereby leaving behind a legacy of trust, respect, and equity for generations to come.


  1. Please note that a lawyer with a licence to argue cases in superior courts is also an officer of the court. There are also corrupt lawyers who pay bribes to judges.


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