Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw questioned whether "the swish of judicial ermine and velvet should cow into deference both the public and the legislature" and deter them from investigating the family and social relationships of the judiciary.
The first person employed to review judicial decisions has backed a petition for a register of interests for the judiciary to log family links, social connections and memberships of relevant bodies at Holyrood's Public Petitions Committee.
Moi Ali, the Judicial Complaints Reviewer, said her position is toothless, she operates on a shoestring, works three days a month maximum and has no authority to challenge judicial decisions or get feedback from the Lord President on how her recommendations are handled.
Lord President Lord Gill, Scotland's most senior judge, declined the committee's invitation to address the petition and the devolved Parliament has no powers to compel him to appear, according to committee convener David Stewart.
The judge will instead meet Mr Stewart and his deputy Chic Brodie in private, the convener told the committee.
Protection of privacy and concerns about "media harassment" are central to the judiciary's objections to the register, the committee heard.
Ms Ali challenged the judiciary's insistence that the judicial oath to assess cases impartially should be enough to instil confidence in the legal process.
"It clearly isn't," she said.
"We are not talking large numbers but issues have been raised about undeclared family relationships and memberships of a variety of organisations."
It is "difficult to argue" that politicians and other public figures should have registers of interests but the judiciary should not, she said.
One complainant said his appeal was heard by the son of the judge who presided over the trial, while it is suggested that judges "change their names to hide their family links to other judges", Ms Ali said.
"Most of the letters I receive express the feeling that people are in cahoots, that they look after their own and the whole thing is a big cover-up," she said.
"I don't believe generally that it is but because there is no transparency, people believe that is the case."
Ms Ali outlined her duties and experience since being appointed Scotland's first Judicial Complaints Reviewer two years ago.
"I'm a bit like an ombudsman without the teeth in that I can review the judicial office's handling of complaints but I don't have an ombudsman's power to make any determination other than that complaints were handled in accordance with the rules or not.
"It's a part-time role, three days a month maximum and I operate on a shoestring budget of £2,000 a year."
The reviewer's remit was agreed by the Scottish Parliament in The Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008.
Ms Ali said: "My concern is I might feel that the rules haven't been followed, send it back to the Lord President and then never know what happens. I feel somewhat as if my hands are tied because I can make suggestions but I can't do anything more than that.
"Recently there was a case I referred back which, I was told, would be reinvestigated but I didn't hear anything more. I asked the judicial office what had happened and they said they couldn't tell me because it was a matter for the Lord President.
"I've written to the Lord President asking what I can expect, because I am unhappy about referring things back and not knowing what happened."
The Lord President is not subject to freedom of information laws, she pointed out.
Mr Carlaw said: "From this committee's perspective, I think that what has been the focus of our attention here has been the Lord President's Edwardian establishment disdain for the hoi polloi, as I think the petitioner sees it, in terms of us having any right to understand these matters.
"I wonder if you would put it more politely, but it does seem to me that you're not a million miles away from characterising it this way. Is it still the case that the swish of judicial ermine and velvet should cow into deference both the public and the legislature in terms of our right to understanding these issues?
"In this day and age, the reason that the Lord President appears to be against it is that it has not been so to date."
Ms Ali responded: "I'd like to be as colourful as you are but I feel I can't at the moment. In any institution, in any sector, change is not always welcome, particularly change that is seen to be quite challenging. Most institutions resist that as it is seen as something of a threat, when actually I prefer to see it as an opportunity.
"More transparency in any area of life can only be a good thing. I know that there can be a downside, and I have read the judiciary's response to the petition which is that it is 'intrusive and could attract negative media reaction', but that goes hand in hand with accountability."
Mr Stewart said: "We did ask the Lord President to appear before us and the Scotland Act has a provision which states that the judiciary cannot be required to appear before the committee.
"The Lord President is next door at another committee. If the Lord President wishes to go voluntarily that is entirely up to him. However, we have made arangements for myself and the deputy convener to meet the Lord President in a few weeks' time."
Lord Gill was giving evidence to the Justice Committee's scrutiny of the Tribunals (Scotland) Bill this morning.