We are not familiar with the superstar judge in Britain. Our adversarial model of justice, in which evidence is gathered by the police and evaluated at trial by a supposedly neutral judge, pretty much precludes it. But in much of Europe, and wherever else in the world the inquisitorial system prevails, it is an independent prosecutor or examining magistrate who directs investigations, seeks out evidence, and interviews all concerned.
It is a role that can, when handled astutely, present the determined, charismatic and above all publicity-savvy jurist with a satisfyingly large stage on which to display their talents – and some do not shy from the opportunity.
One such is Baltasar Garzón, the celebrated – and controversial – Spanish human rights investigator who, as the legal head of anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, is considering a request for help from US whistleblower Edward Snowden.