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Archive for the ‘Charon After Dark’ Category

And where would we be without our Police ?

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HT to @beaubodor who made the original comment some two years ago… see: http://muckrack.com/archiebland/statuses/182578163589726208

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The United States and The United Kingdom – Peoples divided by a common language? 

“Well…I spliced the main brace last night and ended up three sheets to the wind. I can tell you that Mrs C was taken aback. Thought I was for the high jump. Mind you, it was cold enough outside to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. I was at a loose end, you see, and our work is, after all, money for old rope. Hadn’t had a square meal for hours which is probably why I was over refreshed. Normally, of course, I accept all drinks invitations at the drop of a hat and I am sure Mrs C took my excuse on the phone earlier with a pinch of salt. But hook or by crook, I was determined to join you at this wonderful bar for a spot of grog. Needed a hair of the dog anyway, but at the risk of flogging a dead horse and not wishing to be a fly in the ointment, I made my way over the water to get here. After all,  I don’t have feet of clay and these days one has to stand up and be counted, throw one’s hat into the ring…you understand, I am sure. Anyway…I would not be worth my salt if I had chickened out. Anyway…as you can see, I grasped the nettle, knowing that we would not have to pay through the nose here and it is not as if I had drunk a Mickey Finn…By the way…why are those Germans looking at me so strangely…. speaking the Queen’s English, which they understand, I am sure….so what is the problem? I am a good European. I back the EU…why are they staring at me that way?

Anyway..where was I ? Ah yes…It is a moot point as to whether I was left in the lurch when Johnny pegged out after having too many irons in the fire, which put the dampers on my plans to hold the fort and bag a table …..

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Of course…we all understand the above phrases..but how many of us know where they come from? An excellent book “Red Herrings and White Elephants” by Albert Jack will make all clear. Available at Waterstones and all our other favourite legal bookshops…hopefully, still available.

 

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#SAVEUKJUSTICE – A few observations…some sardonic 

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It is some years since I invited a cousin – Cardinal Charoni di Tempranillo –  to write on my blog.

This is what he wrote last time…. it will give you a clue as to why I have not invited him to write again….

“For many years the Church enjoyed power, prestige, influence, great wealth and the private pleasures of the flesh by preying on the superstition and lack of education of the people it sought to have power over.  King Henry VIII started the rot by getting rid of the Pope and grabbing the land and wealth owned by the Church under the wonderful euphemism of ‘Reformation’ to set up a model more convenient to his politico-legal needs to establish a dynasty. Now we share with our brethren in other faiths, a world of converts much diminished by education, and seek to convert the remaining ill educated peoples of the world to our ways.

We have had some success but the internet, the spread of television and people like Hitchens and Dawkins flogging their God Delusion books through Amazon and all good bookshops has made it much more difficult to pass the collection plate around on Sundays – although we are doing good trade in‘Weddings in Church for the modern godless couple’, particularly in our more ‘historic’ churches and…. we have upped the stakes by doing wine tastings on Sunday mornings and slipping in a bit of absolution and a complimentary wafer  as our congregation sips the wine.

I am often asked if I believe in God.  I smile beningnly, raise my arms to the heavens and say ‘God is within us all’… which usually does the business.   Now, if you forgive me, I have matters to attend to… we are developing a package for governments that are running out of money to pay their police and armed forces.  We have a working title for it… ‘Operation Put the Fear of God back into your people’.

In the name of the  Father… the son….

Cardinal Charoni di Tempranillo”

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It being New Year – and little in the way of any law news about and a bit of time until Sherlock Holmes returns… I thought I would write another ‘Postcard…

I really could not resist this from Twitter..

‘Normal’ service will be resumed soon.

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The truly honourable who turn down absurd British honours…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declining_a_British_honour

I am not a fan of the British Honours system.  I can see no reason at all to call someone ‘Sir Basil” or “Dame Edna”… let alone the absurdity of ‘Lord / lady’.

Fortunately, I don’t need to – and won’t.

Also time to get rid of titles for all judges – gives the impression that they are not independent?  Some think so – as is their right…still… in Britain.  Why do we need a ‘Lord’ Chief Justice?  Chief Justice has far more impact.

I can’t imagine that judges need a title to do a decent job.  Ipso facto, why bother with the title?

But I do have some sensible advice for those contemplating a career in the law…

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Postcard from The Bunker…. (1)

Finally recovering from a daft injury sustained when I tripped on a bathmat while shaving and fell backwards into the bath, cracking my spine.,  I can, at last, type with some accuracy and no pain.  Whether this advance will do anything to the cause of informing and commenting on the laws of our country is not for me to consider.

Nor is it for me or anyone else to consider calling for the abolition of The Monarchy – or even thinking about it?  For the avoidance of doubt, Mr Grayling, I am not and  never have been a member of the communist party, nor have I ever had the temerity to think in private or in public about the abolition of The Monarchy  etc etc. It is possible that my brain may have toyed with such thoughts when I was asleep – but I can hardly be responsible –  or have any of that old mens rea schtik –  while I am asleep.

The Ministry of Justice appears to be right up to the mark with ‘efficiency undreamed of in a modern state’  by managing to get ‘confused’ as to what laws in relation to the above are or are not still in force.

The Guardian makes the point: “A 165-year-old law that threatens anyone calling for the abolition of the monarchy with life imprisonment is technically still in force – after the Ministry of Justice admitted wrongly announcing that it had been repealed.”

It would appear that the Lord Chancellor has some competition when it comes to giving advice on the law: Helston pub affray conviction ‘unsafe’ as court bailiff slammed

Still…I suppose it must be difficult for the Lord Chancellor – not being a lawyer himself – to keep a grip on all this ‘law stuff’.

But the good news…demonstrating beyond doubt that the Lord Chancellor is concerned with law reform: “Among 327 offences that have recently been purged from the statute book was that of “being an incorrigible rogue”, under the Vagrancy Act 1824.”

But, be that as it may.  On to other matters….

First up is a question which has been on my mind, unanswered,  for many years – now solved by this helpful article: What does the Queen’s ‘warden of the swans’ actually do? (Phone hacking has had some benefits.)

I enjoyed this blog post: 

A simply appalling scheme

 Lloyds Banking Group has been fined £28m by the Financial Conduct Authority for simply awful management of staff.

To ensure that Britain continues to lead the way when it comes to matters of criminal Law, Legal Futures notesEntrepreneur-backed Defence Hub promises to “revolutionise” criminal defence market

I shall sleep easy in my bed this night knowing that all is well in matters of criminal defence and ‘hubs’.

And what about this – just to make us feel ‘Christmassy’? 

The Lawmakers riding roughshod over democracy .  It would appear Lord Sumption is right: legal activism devalues the demos.

But hey… while I am on what I am pleased to call ‘a roll’  – what about this from Legal Cheek?Frontman of company seeking to ‘revolutionise’ criminal law makes grammatically incorrect bestiality slur against bemused barrister

Back later.  I have to replenish supplies from the high street.

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I am reassured by the news that our Prime Minister works in his pyjamas….

And here is PROOF for those still interested in Evidence based reporting….

(Although the spelling is a bit dodgy in the link)

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I am not a fan of the *Honours* system – but be that as it may ….as my learned friends might say…as they do.

I do, however, wonder if the judges should accept honours from the State in an independent judiciary.

I’ll get my coat…..

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The #Reinventlaw conference is underway asking about the future of law… is this it? 

I do hope not… still.. the delegates seem to be having fun…. and this is fine by me.

I am told that the hashtag #Reinventlaw is trending in Little Wallop..and this is also good.

Have a good weekend.  And do keep an eye out for those G4S vans in your area…

 

 

 

 

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I am grateful to The Criminal Bar Association for drawing attention to this from Hansard

I have taken the liberty of extracting the relevant passage to save you the trouble of scrolling down to find it.  It would appear that Mr Grayling – who some say is not an expert in knowing arse from elbow – is not fully aware of the distinction between the Bar Council and The Criminal Bar Association

Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab):Will the Leader of the House ask the Lord Chancellor to come to the House to explain his flawed policy on legal aid? He refuses to meet the chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, the Law Society is threatening legal action, the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls are against it, and it undermines the English legal system. We need a statement or a debate in Government time.

Mr Lansley:I sat here with my right hon. and hon. Friends during Justice questions a few days ago when almost exactly the same point was made to them, and I heard them reply and say how often they meet the Criminal Bar Association and others and that they had done so recently. I will, of course, draw their attention to what the hon. Lady has said, but I heard them say that it is not true that they are not discussing this issue with those affected.

I marvel – The CBA say that Grayling refuses to meet with them and Michael Turner QC.  – Astonishing…

It would be good if Mr Grayling could meet Mr Michael Turner QC , Chairman of The Criminal Bar Association,  for a chat….. he will be better informed on his legal aid reform schtik..

Perhaps Mr Grayling, Lord High Chancellor….may like to listen to my podcast with Michael Turner QC to get a bit of arse from elbow briefing action before talking to Mr Turner?

Tour Report #21: Podcast with Michael Turner QC, Chairman of The Criminal Bar Association, on the legal aid reforms

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Cartoon by Charles Pugsley Fincher J.D. a Texas lawyer and artist

Dear Reader,

My Vapidity Beyond The Call Of Duty award for last week must go to the Westminster, Oxford and Bullingdon Club educated Mr Harry Mount – who even has a whole Wikipedia entry to himself.

I marvelled as I read the nonsense he wrote about the legal aid reforms in his seminal article in The Spectator: Take it from a former barrister: Chris Grayling is right to reform legal aid“There’s only one problem with Chris Grayling’s legal reforms – they don’t go far enough”

It is fair to say that Mr Mount’s absurd article drew the attention of the lawyers on twitter and elsewhere – derision and ridicule in the main. There is, after all, absolutely no point in getting angry with buffoonery. I particularly enjoyed Simon Myerson QC’s elegant evisceration of the article in the comments section – a must read.

Mr Mount did a pupillage but did not proceed to tenancy. He also writes for The Daily Mail, I understand. Research did not appear to be Mr Mount’s strongpoint in the article according to experienced practitioners who commented on the article.

I did enjoy this:  Justice ‘Overrated’, claims Justice Secretary

THIS IS EXCELLENT satire on legal aid reforms (BBC Radio 4 )… John Finnemore (Hat Tip to @taxbod) listen from 11 minutes in…

And on a more serious note, before I go on to lose the plot completely… a bit of serious law content on the Legal Aid Reforms

Obiter J: Some responses to MoJ consultation on Transforming legal aid

theintrigant: Fourth Letter to the Lord Chancellor

That is probably enough serious stuff for the present…onwards and upwards…or downwards, depending on your viewpoint of such matters…

Most UK and US lawyers are fairly measured in their approach to putting themselves forward by way of advertising or using social media as a platform for their views and writings.

NOT so this US lawyer: ADAM REPOSA: Lawyer, Patriot, Champion – You really don’t want to get in his way.  A truly astonishing advertisement – available on YouTube.  Do have a look if you haven’t seen it already.  You will laugh, I am sure. You may bang your head on the table afterwards, though.

It isn’t just the experienced lawyers who want in on the ‘unusual way to practice’. Legal Cheek covered the case of a Freshfields trainee:

THE FRESHFIELDS TRAINEE SELLING INSIDER TRAINING CONTRACT INTERVIEW TIPS FOR £150 A POP

A spokesperson for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer told Legal Cheek: “We are taking the matter very seriously and have started an investigation.”

Some weeks ago I did a podcast with ex-Tory MP and barrister Jerry Hayes – who was most eloquent and amusing about Grayling’s legal aid reforms.  I am pleased to draw your attention to a post he wrote in Legal Cheek:  ‘I HEARD A VOICE WHISPER: “WHAT A GHASTLY PORTRAIT OF INSUFFERABLE ARROGANCE” – AND I REALISED HE MEANT ME’

The law just keeps on giving…

RollonFriday reports: “The University (née College) of Law has banned students from using electronic cigarettes in exam rooms after several were spotted puffing away during assessments. Authorities sent the following strongly-worded email to the GDL intake after University spies reported that several nicotine addicts were smoking e-cigs under exam conditions” Read….

RollonFriday notes: A Cambridge University law exam has caused a furore in the national press because of its explicit content.

I can’t really see what the fuss is about.  Criminal lawyers have to deal with some very unpleasant issues – the exam question is fairly mild in terms of examples of criminal behaviour?  But…hey… it gave RoF a chance to do some ‘Breaking News’ and mock the tabloids – rightly.

Apropos of absolutely nothing… I used to set Contract and Sale of Goods law examinations – marking some, it has to be said, imagining myself with a square of black silk (A Black Cap) on top of my head.   I may have had a different life had I been an academic in the field of criminal law or, for that matter, chosen to be a criminal mastermind like Professor Moriarty

It isn’t all bad news for the legal profession.  At least one Tory MP is concerned about assisting the legal profession…

This tweet prompted Mark Lewis, a very experienced media lawyer, to suggest…

Isn’t a threat to sue for libel before anything is published rather menacing? @NadineDorriesMP@mjhsinclair#freespeech#chillingeffect

I had a heavy (and strange) week last week… but I did manage to comment acerbically on the Grayling legal aid reforms…

Right… orf for a walk.  No doubt, while I am away, Nicholas Witchell will be standing around outside a London hospital – pointlessly – waiting for some Duke of Edinburgh action so that BBC News can cover it ad nauseam.  No doubt, also – my emails will be read by GCHQ…aided and abetted by the United States drone hovering over the River Medway as I write..

I shall return on the morrow with more ‘tales’…

Have a good evening..

Best, as always

Charon

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The #SAVEUKJUSTICE demonstration outside the Ministry of Justice yesterday was well attended.  Coverage of the event has been extensive and well dealt with in the law blogs

A few observations….

The unified stance taken by the Bar and Law Society has been a remarkable feature of the campaign.  Leading lights from the legal profession have given time and thought to putting the message across through blogs and on twitter. Many bloggers have written on the subject.  Patrick Torsney has a comprehensive listing of blogs written by lawyers and others from the legal blogging community. 

Unfortunately, the extensive use of the #SAVEUKJUSTICE hashtag on Twitter served to irritate some, including lawyers, and the PR was almost certainly not sufficiently directed to the issue of fairness – at times, the message seemed to focus on how little the lawyers were being paid which is not a message likely to receive sympathy from some members of the public.

The petition, as of today, stands at a remarkable 79,000. But there are many thousands more lawyers – so it should have been relatively straightforward to get the 100,000 signatures needed to persuade Parliament to debate The Lord Chancellor’s plans? On the assumption that many thousands of signatories to the petition would have come from non-lawyer members of the public through publicity being generated by lawyers on Twitter – and, importantly, Stephen Fry, Bianca Jagger and other ‘celebrities’ who punted the petition actively, pleasingly – it must follow that a good 40,000+ lawyers did not sign the petition.

I have spoken to  quite a few commercial and City lawyers recently.   Some said, predictably, that they were not really aware of the issues and did not use twitter. A couple took a more hostile line and felt that the message of the criminal lawyers was wrong and too oriented to their own jobs and not the interests of the public.  Others have said – and I agree with this latter stance – the message could have been addressed more to the needs of the people and the importance of preserving the Rule of Law rather than ‘profession oriented’.  The message was not clear enough, they argued:  There was a ‘whiff of’ loss of law jobs with the reduction from 1600 to 400 firms which may have  given the impression that this reduction was more important than justice itself.

Certainly, I saw quite a few tweets along the lines of ‘Lawyers have been keeping access to justice exclusive with high fees for years’ 

I am not a practitioner.  I am a mildy reclusive observer.  But I do believe that the criminal barristers and solicitors are right.  The Rule of Law will be compromised by Grayling’s reforms and I do believe that these criminal lawyers, the majority of whom do not get that well paid – less than £50k a year I have seen quoted – are regarding the profession as vocational rather than commercial.

The City and large commercial law firms turn over billions.  Their lawyers are well paid – very well paid.  A newly qualified lawyer at a ‘Magic Circle’ firm starts at £63,000+. So what?  They run commercial businesses.  Their clients are men and women of commerce, large corporations, banks, in a global legal market.  A cynic might observe – and I am a cynic at times – that commercial and City lawyers are more interested in the ‘Certainty of Law’ rather than the Rule of Law.  I once heard a senior commercial lawyer say that “Contract law is not about ‘Justice’.  We want certainty so that we can advise clients to avoid  well established  legal pitfalls and operate at the lawful edge of the legal envelope.”

I also heard  words to the effect “Any bloody idiot can tell a client what they cannot do . We don’t want bloody idiots.  We want good lawyers who can tell the client what they can do within the law as it is set down by Parliament. “

The City / Commercial firm practice is a different world – but it is not a world paid for by taxpayers. Of course, the City and commercial firms benefit from the reputation of our legal system and ‘Rule of Law’.  As a friend of mine @taxbod observed bluntly on twitter only t’other night  – “But yet, any of those civil/commercial flog the British justice system when whoring to Russian chavs etc.” Sometimes… blunt… is good.

Legal Aid is paid for by tax payers, most legal aid lawyers are not well paid.  A legal system where people are not given a fair hearing – because they cannot afford lawyers, civil and criminal – is not a fair legal system

That being said – congratulations to all – lawyers and non-lawyers alike – for a good campaign.  The Ministry of Justice seems to have won the mainstream media PR war with their coverage in The Daily Mail yesterday:

£15m for just one firm on legal aid gravy train Scale of taxpayers’ bill revealed as Coalition vows to save £200m

  •  Ministry of Justice released a breakdown of payments to lawyers

  • Justice Secretary Chris Grayling says system is ‘not sustainable’

  • Demonstrators waved placards reading ‘justice is not for sale’

But the campaign is not over.  Surely it is not beyond the realms of possibility to get over 100,000 signatures?  Even if lawyers have to get on the phone to non-criminal law lawyers?

And lawyer or non-lawyer, if you would like to sign the petition – you may do so here

And… you can keep up to date with developments by following @TheCriminalBar on twitter

A selection of links:

The Criminal Bar Association:  Do read the Monday Message 03.06.13 – some real gems in there.

Obiter J : Some responses to MoJ consultation on Transforming legal aid

Legal Cheek: LAWYERS PROVE THEY CAN PULL OFF A DEMO – AS BRITAIN DISCUSSES #PUBLICW*NKINGONYOUTUBE
The Legal Cheek post includes some marvellous pictures and recordings of speeches by Carl Gardner, author of the Head of Legal Blog.

Head of Legal:  Geoffrey Robertson QC: there is a hidden agenda

Head of Legal:  Michael Fordham QC: the avocado of justice

Michael Fordham QC was I think the star of today’s “Saving Justice” demo outside the Ministry of Justice. His speech was both angry and funny – he called the Ministry of Justice “wankers”. And his avocado of justice, odd as it sounds, went down a storm with his audience.

The Bar Council: Bar Council responds to Legal Aid consultation

Circuit Judges: Critique of the proposals from the Judiciary

 The Law Society: Law Society responds to legal aid consultation

Storify of the SaveUKJustice demonstration 4th June 2013

And…as Legal Cheek noted:  AS MOJ CONSULTATION ON LEGAL AID CLOSES, THE UK CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM IS PLACED ON EBAY

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Quote du Jour

“I’ll deny having said this, but it’s a bribe … the sort of thing I can say to these guys … you put that question down now, I thought you were interested in Fiji, would you like to come down to it, you know, I believe it’s quite nice … I can whisper that.”

Lord Laird as reported in The Telegraph story: Lord suggests best way to ‘bribe’ colleagues

It seems only right to start this review with a visit to thebungblog – A LIGHT HEARTEDLY SERIOUS LOOK AT THE BRIBERY ACT 2010.  Here is an enjoyable read:  “A QUESTION OF INTERPRETATION”

In the wake of the astonishing ‘Cash for Questions’ saga – more to come on that, inevitably – let me draw your attention to an excellent blog post done last year by A dragon’s best friend:  Cash for applications?

For my part – I would be quite happy to see the abolition of the House of Lords, a unicameral system (or at the least an elected second chamber) and the abolition of all honours.  It won’t happen of course – but holding these views allows me to keep vaguely sane in the current dystopian landscape.

But there we go… now to the law blogs…

I know nothing about crofting but I know a man who does.  Brian Inkster of Inksters is the man to go to for crofting law action. And there is a lot of it about with the recent Crofting Law Bill.

Crofting Law Blog: 6 out of 10 to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee
Brian Inkster manages to give a Strictly Come Dancing / Eurovision feel to an otherwise serious analysis.  That is classy blogging!

For those who are not operating in the Crofting Law field, Brian also blogs at The Time Blawg – the latest post, a very comprehensive review:  LawTech Futures 2013 Reviewed: The one with the neocortex

“Now let me point a finger, not at the Lord Chancellor, but at the legal profession. How the hell did we let this happen?”

Legal 2.0 is the man pointing the finger and I agree with him on the premise that the campaign should not be focused on preaching to the converted.  I raised this with Michael Turner QC , Chairman of The Criminal Bar Association, when I did my podcast with him.  In fact, the CBA and others were successful in raising public interest – in the mainstream media, on twitter and also managed to get Stephen Fry , with his millions of followers, interested – and over 70,000 people signed the petition. The campaign should have been directed more to the general public?  Some, rightly, have voiced the opinion that the campaign leaders may have benefited from hiring in experienced PR campaign specialists. John Busby’s addition to a blog post written by Paul Wise of WiseCounsel is well worth a read. 

The Magistrates’ Blog considers the speculation about Ministry of Justice plans to ‘privatise the courts’: A Straw In The Wind – “Until last Autumn my court had a nice little snack bar, looked after by a lady who supplied reasonably priced refreshments to court users, staff and magistrates. It was a meeting point for lawyers and others, and was run at no cost to HMCTS. Last Autumn the lady decided to move on, and the bar closed. We were assured that a replacement was being sought, but had to go through the full ponderous civil service procurement process. Then silence……”

While the Government continues to ‘wrestle’ with compliance policy in relation to European Court of Human Rights judgments – the Scots are having issues of their own in relation to prisoner voting rights in the forthcoming independence referendum. Lalland’s Peat Worrier is on the case: Fulsome prison blues…

Ipso Jure by Dr Peter Groves, Solicitor, continues to provide analysis and commentary on intellectual property law and has a free textbook for law students.

I found this blog post by Paul Bernal most interesting:  Google Glass: just because you can…

Paul writes…”As a bit of a geek, and a some-time game player, it’s hard not to like the look of Google Glass. Sure, it makes you look a little dorky in its current incarnation (even if you’re Sergey Brin, as in the picture below) but people like me are used to looking dorky, and don’t really care that much about it. What it does, however, is cool, and cool in a big way. We get heads-up displays that would have been unimaginable even a few years ago, a chance to feel like Arnie in the Terminator, with the information about everything we can see immediately available. It’s cool – in a dorky, sci-fi kind of way, and for those of us brought up on a diet of SF it’s close to irresistible.”
Read more…

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Time to go for a long walk while the late afternoon Sunday sun continues to shine.  I am sorry if I have not managed to cover all the familiar blogs in this series of four reviews of and from the law blogs.  I plan to look at some more, including US, Canadian and Australian blogs, soon and will, of course, cover interesting blog posts in my normal review of the ‘wonders of law’ in my regular postings.

I leave you with an old letter from Lord Shagger – who sends his best wishes from Monaco.  He is much amused by the greed and stupidity of parliamentarians caught up in the recent ‘lobby’ scandal.

A view of and from the law blogs…. (3)
A view of and from the law blogs… (2)
A view of and from the law blogs….. (1)

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