Archive for June, 2010

Behold… the most senior judges in the United Kingdom…The Supremes – distinguished men all, bar one, a very distinguished lady lawyer, Baroness Hale. They deal with the most pressing legal issues of the day and one would have thought, would have more on their collective minds than worrying about titles.  It would appear not. Let me say at once, that I admire our sense of nationhood, I enjoy our not always glorious history and I would prefer us to remain one nation.  I am persuaded by the sentiment behind independence and I am certainly attracted, in good time, by a Republic.  It matters not what I think – for I am going to change nothing by tilting at windmills.

I do, however, think that the establishment of The Supreme Court was a good thing.  I do like the separation of the judiciary from the executive and I do like the fact that new justices to the Supreme Court will not be made peers.  I am, therefore, a bit surprised to find that The Supremes are pressing for Sir John Dyson, newly elevated, to be given a courtesy title on the ground that Scottish judges can wander about – some quite junior judges – calling themselves Lord This and Lord That. Joshua Rozenberg writes of these matters in the Guardian. To my mind Ken Clarke, The new Lord Chancellor who, I assume, has not given himself a peerage or courtesy title, must resist this call and, thereby ensure that the judiciary is kept separate from the geegaws and baubles (and influences?) of State.  I appreciate that I am in the minority on this – but I would like to see all judges separated from their titles in time believing, as I do, that their appointment and distinction comes from their experience and not because they are given the titles of a bygone age.  I don’t suppose it really matters at the end of the day….but, that is my view… for what it is worth.

It is always good to see schadenfreude and hypocrisy in action. RollonFriday continues to give College of Law CEO, Nigel Savage, a going over...“RollOnFriday can reveal an email sent by the College of Law Chief Executive Nigel Savage to his staff to explain why they’d been awarded a 2% pay rise. Which contrasts very interestingly with the 40% bonus that he trousered himself.” I rather suspect that many of those I knew when RollonFriday first appeared in the early 2000s (I enjoyed posting  myself and, indeed, meeting many as Brigadier Grappa) are probably doing rather nicely.  Some of them WERE partners in law firms then – many now will be.  The generation now using RollonFriday, or a percentage, can look forward to very nice PEPs in future.    Law is a business like everything else.  If you don’t like the terms and conditions, and collective action cannot force change – do something else.  I don’t know the detail of lecturer salaries at the College of Law.  When I ran BPP Law School we certainly paid well above the public sector norm at universities.  That may have changed.    Hey ho!.  I suspect the owners of RollonFriday are trousering a few bob – and why not?!

And if you don’t believe me that law is a very SERIOUS business to some.. this marvellous nonsense from RollonFriday:

A tax partner at Freshfields’ Madrid office has published an article in the Spanish economic publication “Negocio” criticising her colleagues for watching football.
At 9:45 at night.Silvia Paternain gives vent to her irritation at the male lawyers in her department watching the Spain v Honduras match, while her female colleagues – who have no interest in the beautiful game – are toiling away at their desks. She argues that it doesn’t matter if it’s late in the evening – there’s still work to be done………

They talk about work / life balance at law firms… perhaps they you talk more about getting a life?

I am puzzled as to why there is so much interest in the PEP figures (profits) published by law firms. I was always brought up to believe that discussing money was impolite.  Now law firms are almost vying to get the news out on Twitter, Facebook groups and in the legal press.  I am all for open information, but need we be subjected to press releases about it?  Do lawyers really want more vilification and ridicule  from the public?

I bring you news that the Germans do not like the VUVUZELA. This may well be an opportunity to give ‘Der Kaiser’ as Beckenbauer, the ageing German soccer ace, is known in Germany, a stuffing.  He has been less than polite about ‘OUR BOYS’.

I shall be on the terraces…in Battersea… with my Vuvuzela on Sunday… count on it.

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This Week’s finest hour? Hardly!

I watched This Week (I have watched it for a long time.) – and found Andrew Neil’s treatment of Diane Abbott not to my taste. This Week was a good  programme.  It is not a ‘serious’ political programme. It is done for laughs and, to be fair, has provided many of those.  Tonight, in my ‘honest opinion’  – Andrew Neil demonstrated an ugly side to politics and political interviewing.  I have no problem with politicians being held to account on serious programmes.  I felt very uncomfortable watching Brillo tearing Diane Abbott apart.  He should not have done it on This Week – particularly as Diane Abbott has been a pundit for some time on this ‘light political parody programme’.

Andrew Neil would have been perfectly justified doing it on Daily Politics – although (Again, expressing a personal ‘honest opinion’ should Brillo and This Week producers be feeling litigious) serious analysis should be left to those who are truly good at it like Paxo, Jon Snow , Radio 4 Today presenters,  Dimbleby et al – and, to be fair,  Neil on DP. They do it fairly and with style.    A lot of people enjoyed the cruelty of Brillo ripping Diane Abbott apart – I saw the tweets on Twitter.  If you want to see cruelty watch a reality TV show.   I did not.  I don’t know anyone of any decency who  could enjoy the spectacle of what we saw on This Week tonight.

Not very British, I thought! In fact.. rather cowardly.  It was a bit like a host inviting  a guest to a dinner party to provide amusement  for the other guests.   That, of course, is a personal view.  I assume we are allowed to have personal views these days….?  I know it was touch and go in the dying days of Labour… but now that Clegg is running the country with Dave …. we should be OK on expressing personal views?

Tear politicians apart on Radio 4, Channel 4, Newsnight by all means   – Marr…..? Well… that is more Heat magazine meets Sunday GMTV sofa advertising colour supplement schtik ….. but don’t do it on a lightweight late Thursday night political parody programme.  It was ugly.  I hope Diane Abbot’s votes go up after that. I believe she increased her majority in the last election.  Quite unusual for a Labour MP, I would have thought?

Perhaps someone else could present This Week?

Tilting at windmills? Yes… what is the point?  🙂

[None.. that is the point about Titling at Windmills  (as they would say on  BBC Springwatch to keep up  a fine tradition of innuendo and sex on BBC) – I shall continue to do so until I am worked to death by the present government as they raise the pension age to 98]

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Watching  Question Time tonight I saw a man who used to have principles try to justify why he no longer seems to have any. At least the Tories – whether you like them or not – are consistent.  I am disappointed by Clegg and Cable. I suspect they may burn in the fires of a future election hell!

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Budget 2010

I’m sorry that you have to read them, if you care to, in reverse order…….  That’s Twitter for you and screen grabs!

I am sure… when I wake up… I shall take everything a lot more seriously…. anything, after all, is possible with the new government. Who would have thought that two world class and senior Lib-Dems would be nodding away like Churchill the Dog during a budget saying… *Oh Yes!*.

Two months ago I would have gone to see a doctor if I imagined that…….

And on that note… to bring a flavour of the World Cup into this analysis…

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I had a bit of fun growing another absurd tache to confuse visiting tourists – who did stare at me.  I was even photographed while reading my newspapers by a couple of elderly Canadians who asked me directions and told me that I had a ‘cute accent’…whatever that is. Perhaps I shouldn’t have told them that I was descended from Vercingetorix (I’m not) and the tache was a family trait.  I enjoy talking to people who come and talk to me – even if I cannot always guarantee that I will talk sense.  Anyway – tacheless until Winter comes upon us again when I may go for a Scott of The Antarctic look.  Now… a bit of Law…

Results of Cherie Blair inquiry ‘were covered up’

The Independent reports: The body which investigates complaints against judges has been accused of covering up the full extent of an investigation into Cherie Blair over her decision to hand down a lenient sentence to a convicted man because he was “a religious person”. An investigation into Mrs Blair, who is a devout Roman Catholic, was launched earlier this year by the Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC) following a request from the National Secular Society (NSS), which argued that a person’s religious conviction should not be used as a mitigating factor during sentencing.

….Mrs Blair explained that she was giving Mr Miah a two-year suspended sentence, instead of a six-month jail term, because he was “a religious person” who had not been in trouble before.

Following the NSS’s complaint, the OJC released a two-paragraph statement on 10 June stating that an investigation by the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice had concluded that Mrs Blair’s “observations did not constitute judicial misconduct” and that “no disciplinary action” was necessary.

But in a separate letter to the NSS, obtained by The Independent, a caseworker from the OJC admitted that the complaint had in fact been “partially substantiated” and that, while no disciplinary action was needed, Mrs Blair would receive “informal advice from a senior judge.”

Others have noted on blogs and in online newspaper comments that Cherie Booth QC acted within sentencing guidelines in terms of the specifics of the case, it being argued that it is unlikely the defendant’s religious views would have made any difference.  That may well be the case. I make no comment on that.  I have not read all the evidence.  The issue as I see it is straightforward and I would simply make two points:

(a) The OJC should have given clear reasons for their findings when they announced the result.  This lack of transparency is part of the ‘secrecy’ malaise which blights much of the executive in this country and we do not need it in the judiciary or, rather The Office for Judicial Complaints. As the old saying goes… ‘Justice must not only be done, but needs to be seen to be done.’

(b) I can see absolutely no reason why a person’s religion or faith, whatever form that should take, should impact on sentencing.

The Independent notes: Mr Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society said the OJC should still have released a more detailed statement which would have informed the public that two senior judges had shown concern over Mrs Blair’s sentencing decision and that she had been spoken to as a result. “It should be noted that the facts we alleged in our complaint are not disputed and that the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice have shared our concerns over this case,” he said. “We welcome them stating their concern that remarks should not be made in court that could be thought to imply that defendants should be treated differently because of their religion or belief. This is a timely reiteration of the fundamental of justice that everyone should be treated equally by the courts, whatever their religion, or lack of it.”

I’m with the NSS on this and not simply because I share the secular state views.

Neuberger report: more solicitor judges wanted

Not, unfortunately Lord Neuberger MR but another distinguished Neuberger – Baroness Neuberger.

The Lawyer reports: The Law Society has long stated its belief that the judiciary should better reflect the diversity of the society it serves rather than being the preserve of the white, heterosexual, Oxbridge-­educated, male barrister.  Last week (15 June) it held a reception to coincide with its response to Baroness Neuberger’s recent report on judicial diversity and to highlight the contribution of solicitor judges, who remain in the minority among the higher echelons of the judiciary. The report proposes 53 recommendations to attract underrepresented groups, including engaging with schools and colleges and promoting part-time ­positions, in acknowledgement that, despite the best efforts of the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), women, ethnic minorities and those from working class backgrounds remain underrepresented.

One is almost tempted to say Yada Yada Yada… but I won’t. It is a serious issue – but the last thing people are going to say at a public reception is that we don’t want diversity in the judiciary because we could end up with a  judiciary which, frankly, is not very good at the job because of lack of experience.

The Bar may have  its problems.. There may still be a few walking cliches of the classic ‘white, heterosexual, Oxbridge-­educated, male barrister’ type harrumphing in Chambers and talking about suiting, shooting and solicitor-inadequates.  Frankly, I have not met that many of prejudiced disposition and puffing their innate superiority in 30 years of meeting barristers. Such people are buffoons and deserve to be ridiculed and parodied  when they pop their tailored haircuts above the parapet.   Oxbridge produces good young law students, but so do many other universities and students from diverse backgrounds are rising in the profession.     I am tired of lazy thinking and cliches. Professor Griffith’s book ‘The Politics of The Judiciary’ was written many many years ago – a fun read when I was a mildly radical law student, with much sense in it – but things have changed in 40 years. We’re not there yet – but I do think it fair to say that the profession is trying to move in the right direction and attract a more diverse social group into the the law.

The way to get diversity into our legal profession and judiciary is to promote good quality education to a wider social group and invest in it.  The sad fact is that it is easier for the children of the middle classes to get into law and many of these have been white.  Things are changing slowly – and diversity will come.  I can’t imagine there are tens of  thousands of lawyers saying we don’t want diversity in the profession or the judiciary.

The last thing we need is positive discrimination and a pile of useless inexperienced judges – of whatever colour, creed or social background.  We must resist the temptation to be seduced by the social benefits of positive discrimination or, as I prefer to put it tonight – because I am feeling sardonic – positive patronisation.

As I used to say when I set examination questions – Discuss.

An American cartoonist (and lawyer and artist) friend,  Charles Fincher,  does excellent cartoons.

Always worth looking at both Scribble-in-Law and Bitcher & Prickman

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It being a Sunday, I don’t feel any sense of angst or the need to wring hands about not writing seriously about law. That can wait until Monday, when I shall do so.  I am pleased to be able to report that my mate Tim Kevan, author of Babybarista,  and I came up with an idea unfuelled by copious amounts of Rioja.  We plan to involve my entirely fictional law firm Muttley Dastardly LLP with Babybarista from time to time.  I have penned the first such guest post on his blog.  “Instructions to Counsel” from Matt Mattley, CEO and managing partner of Muttley Dastardly LLP.  Although the idea to do this was unfuelled by Rioja… I cannot lie.  I was serendipitously overrefreshed  when I wrote the instructions to counsel.


Red Rag reports: Red Rag – Clegg begs Sheffield for forgiveness…..Sheffield starts a petition against Clegg

Oh Dear.  First Laws, then the wonderfully surreal appointment of Beaker as Treasury Secretary. Today, Huhne and his marital difficulties – which, frankly, as I don’t believe Huhne made ‘family’ a central plank of his campaign (although he  did say it was important, as Guido reports)  – is none of our business.

Government spends £17,500 on wine

The BBC reports: “More than £17,500 has been spent topping up the government wine cellar since the election, it has emerged.

It brings the total value of fine wine stored for VIP functions to £864,000, a Commons answer by Foreign Office minister Henry Bellingham revealed.

Labour’s Tom Watson said the Tory-Lib Dem coalition should sell the wine to boost the public finances, quoting Tory slogan “we’re all in this together”.

The government says it buys wine young to ensure the best value for taxpayers.

Tom Watson MP is a bit of a whizz on the IT, Information and FOI side – so I was delighted to read of his story aboput government wine expenditure.  I am a patriot.  I try to do what I can for my country as the tweets below reveal.  At least Tom has a sense of humour in these dark days of opposition.

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