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Archive for January 26th, 2012

A Command Performance….

Court News reports: “A barrister who called opposing lawyers ‘slimebags’ in a series of insulting tweets from court was today (Thurs) thrown out of the profession.  David Harris was wrongly acting for an internet piracy company he owned.

He bragged that ‘whoring and drinking’ would begin after he finished the trial and described an opposing lawyer as a ‘p***k.’….”

Well… as it happens… I know @Geeklawyer well (and like him)  – an amusing figment of his own imagination who,  taking of mead and his favoured strawberry beer libations in sufficient quantities,  tweets nonsense late at night.  It would appear that he has managed to get himself disbarred for LIFE according to the Court News report.

As yet, the BSB – The Bar Standards Board –  has not posted the decision on the website nor, indeed,  managed to inform Mr Geeklawyer / Harris about  his exit from Bar Departure Gate 1 when I contacted him for his thoughts on the matter. I spend a fair bit of time thinking about “Fair” treatment of people in my reclusion these days. Fair that  Court News got “info” before Geeklawyer / David Harris?

Geeklawyer and I talked over the phone this afternoon and he was more than happy for me to write about the matter – not that I had any plans to do so when I contacted him.   I suspect that failing to disclose things to a high court judge and other unusual practice behaviour at the trial may well have had a significant bearing on the decision to disbar – I have no information on this as at the time of writing.

Assuming that the charge of bringing the profession into disrepute was one of the issues behind the decision to disbar – Mr Geeklawyer / Harris confirmed that he was indeed charged with same; I thought it would be interesting to ask what defence he put forward.  [ Mr Geeklawyer / Harris is perfectly entitled to tell me about his defence, as I am entitled to write about his account (with his blessing), given the publicity which the disbarment has attracted thus far in the press.]

The Geeklawyer / Harris  defence may be summarised as follows:

1.  It wasn’t him qua David Harris, a practising barrister – it was Geeklawyer wot dun it.   Geeklawyer doesn’t exist and is not a practising barrister recognised by The Bar Council

2. The tweets were not communications made in the course of professional practice.  They were social.

3. Social conduct does not, save in extreme cases such as criminal behaviour, form a lawful basis for sanctions by professional conduct committees as it transgresses both the right to a private life and the right to private correspondence under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Geeklawyer was able to tell me – as I wiped tears of laughter from my eyes: “Geeklawyer has the Article 8 Convention rights mentioned before. This charge is a disproportionate and meritless interference with that right to converse flippantly. To say that Geeklawyer is not able to tell his friend @XXXXX that he has a hangover because somehow the faith of the public in the Bar would be shaken to their core to learn that barristers drink is absurd. We are rarely confused with monks. The tweets are between friends and colleagues however uncouth. They are not unprofessional simply because they were made socially and outside work. It is hard to imagine that any member of the modern, as opposed to Victorian, public would be shaken by the revelation that barristers use words like ‘prick’ ‘fuck’ and make jokes about colleagues.”

Please note – for newshounds who may wish to consider this report when writing  (or, indeed, as their own – by nicking it) that –  The Court News report discloses “Harris owned Newzbin, a website which allowed users to download films illegally before the company was sued by major film companies including 20th Century Fox. He did not disclose his interest to the High Court was forced to stand down eight days into the hearing when his link to the firm was discovered.”

I’ve been tweeting for many years now with Geeklawyer.  His tweets are absurd, outrageous at times, more often than not amusing – if one accepts and understands (as most sane people do)  that Geeklawyer doesn’t exist.  I have never, as it happens, been “whoring, taking cocaine, bribing judges, calling lawyers slimeballs and pricks” with Geeklawyer.  I am certain that Mr David Harris hasn’t been doing these things either.

It will be interesting to see what weight The  Bar Standards Board gave to the twitter performances of Geeklawyer in their decision to disbar – if any. The Court News report was fairly unequivocal….and, no doubt, most useful in raising their ‘Profile and Farkin Klout rating’ – ?  “HARRIS: BARRISTER HANDED LIFETIME BAN OVER TWITTER ABUSE.”   I suspect the other unfortunate matter of not disclosing a matter to a High Court judge has caused what will be a minor inconvenience to David Harris.  I understand he has other amusements planned for his future.

Well.. there we are…. Friday tomorrow…. and it may be that we’ll see some barristers on twitter – and, indeed, some very well known solicitor lawyers –  considering their behaviour and rushing for the delete button on twitter!  (Some make a habit of deleting tweets – Bless!  I won’t be offering this post – or any of my posts … up for the Schnorvitz Prize… Pets Win Prizes ?)

***

A further thought… added later… It is just as well The Bar Standards Board is not claiming jurisdiction over fictional lawyers… Sir John Mortimer QC’s …”Rumpole”  … or even … others ?  🙂   I am confident… hopefully… that the BSB is not claiming such jurisdiction.

I am informed – and this will no doubt be confirmed or not by the BSB judgment / decision on Geeklawyer / Mr Harris when they publish it – that a fine was levied for the @Geeklawyer tweets. I really… do hope not.  That would be most interesting given that Geeklawyer does not exist?  We shall see in due course… as they say … in the new era of transparency.

After all.. how can one disbar or fine  a ‘fictional barrister’ for tweeting… or blogging ?

***

Dr Strangelove …. CEO of Muttley Dastardly LLP. is acting for me  ( I am a figment of my imagination) … and he always does the biz… always…. (I have never known Dr Ersasmus Strangelove  to lose a case …. extraordinary record… No FEE.. NO WIN.. he ain’t daft)

Friday Update… The Telegraph reports:  Barrister who Tweeted insults struck off

Harris disbarred for conduct of  a case –  and fined for the tweets…the latter interesting given that few in the profession, let alone the wider ‘public’, would have known David Harris was tweeting as Geeklawyer.  I would suggest that a fair amount of investigation work would be needed to link Geeklawyer to David Harris…. over the last four years…very few knew!

One assumes that Rumpole need not fear an investigation into bringing the profession into disrepute by drinking too much Chateau Thames Embankment at Pomeroy’s wine bar?  Mind you – it would not take sterling detective work to work out that Rumpole was the creation of Sir John Mortimer QC, so who knows?

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From next week – I’ll be publishing a very detailed weekly review about law and lawyers…with some arts matters which have caught my eye. I’m not sure what day – but it is likely to be Fridays.

(a) Professional news from Law Society / Bar / Ilex
(b) Legal Education news
(c) Podcast with a practitioner covering current perceptions of the legal sectors
(d) Law reports – important cases from the week – brief comment and analysis
(e) Review from the law blogs + comment
(f) Commentary on key legal issues from the week
(g) Accounting and tax news relevant to the legal profession
(h) A lighter look at the law….
(i)  Arts review
If you would like to suggest blog posts – or other items for inclusion – please do not hesitate to contact me by email
[If you can remember to put Law Review in the subject header on the email – it will help me keep track!]

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“Is it more difficult for women with mesothelioma to claim compensation?
BY John Pickering and Partners LLP

At a National Lung Cancer conference 3 or 4 years ago, a solicitor speaker was asked whether it was worth women with mesothelioma making a claim.  The obvious answer to that is ‘yes, of course,’ but the questioner had highlighted a perceived problem for women who have mesothelioma and want to claim compensation.

We are likely to see more women with mesothelioma over the next decade.  According to the 2008 HSE study, the number of annual deaths amongst women has increased more rapidly than the increase amongst men over the last 10 years. Although increasing, the number of women with mesothelioma is not yet 20% of the total number in the UK.

How do women with mesothelioma fare under the litigation process compared with men?  Many of the women that I see with mesothelioma come from a group of women who have had slight or intermittent exposure.  Some examples of those who have had slight or intermittent exposure are those who work in offices or factories where asbestos has been used or in buildings where asbestos had been part of the construction or makeup of the building. For example I have seen nurses, teachers, office workers, caterers and process workers.  Some are unaware initially as to where they have had exposure.

The UK Benefits System favours those who recollect exposure to asbestos dust during their work.  Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit is only there for those who have had exposure during work.  This is a payment of £150.30 per week which can mount up to a substantial sum.

Under the civil system of litigation, it is often more difficult for women to claim successfully.  I think that this is partly because men have multiple sources of exposure to asbestos. I have seen situations where siblings have developed asbestos disease having had exposure to asbestos dust from their father’s clothing in the 1950’s.  The boys have been able to claim compensation from their employers because they have gone to work in industries where they have had further asbestos exposure whereas the girls have not been able to claim because there is no legal liability for family members if the exposure took place in the 1950’s.

In terms of evidence of exposure, men are more likely to have handled asbestos directly themselves and are more likely to recall exposure to it.

A French study which was published last year in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed that the incidence of mesothelioma without any identified asbestos exposure (IAE) is usually higher among women, while male incidence is mainly attributed to IAE.  The study concluded that mesothelioma mortality incidence showed that female cases occur in the same geographical areas as male cases suggesting asbestos has a major influence on female mesothelioma, most likely through environmental exposure. It makes it more unfair that women have a harder struggle to claim.

A decision from the Supreme Court in March gives some hope to women. The case concerned 2 women who had been exposed to asbestos dust. One lady had worked in a factory and another was a school pupil whom I represented. Both had had comparatively light exposure to asbestos. Despite this, both succeeded.

So, it is possible through persistence to be able to claim compensation for women who have very little recollection of asbestos exposure through obtaining witness evidence and documentation to support the claim.

For more information about claiming compensation it is advised to seek advice from a Mesothelioma solicitor.”

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