Where does the phrase 'sober as a judge' come from?

It's a play on the two meanings of the word "sober".

Judges are expected to be "sober" in the sense of not being frivolous or lighthearted. Sober in this sense means "serious".

However, in the phrase "sober as a judge", the person so compared is being said to be sober in the other sense of that word, as in "Not intoxicated."
no idea, but no judge i ever met were 'sober'
The phrase "sober as a judge" reflects the recognition of this fact in folk jurisprudence. --Judicial Intelligence. Judges need to be pretty smart
People used to bribe judges with scotch so it's sarcasm

A foolish man(sounds like a wild west version of 'Mr.Bean'!),slapped his neighbour about,in 1898 at Hayley,Idaho.His judge,putatively a heavy drinker,said on the morning of the proceeding:"I'm am as sober as a judge".His name was Arthur Paisley.
it comes from the canterbury tales where a whole town got blind drunk on potent mead and tried to string up a traveller for speaking with a strange accent.

it was only at the last minute a local judge returned to the village from market - he was buying two chickens and a rubber glove (but that's another story) and remembered hearing the accent in days gone by. He immediately stopped the hanging just in time, whilst the traveller almost took his last breath.

the traveller ever thankful to get let off the loose, uttered the words, "these townfolk are bevvied up to their eyeba's... thank god you're sober... sober as a judge!"

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