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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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“A lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than a thousand men with guns.”
Mario Puzo

And today there is news of a barrister facing jail after admitting stealing £81,500 from his Chambers in Manchester. Manchester-based lawyer David Friesner, 46, admitted theft when he appeared at Leeds Crown Court for the start of his trial today – Manchester Evening News

And RollonFriday.com has news of another Manchester barrister up to no good: Top barrister done for drink driving

Unusual behaviour from M’learned friends is not confined to Manchester barristers.  RollonFriday writes about an outbreak of festive hooliganism at a law firm Christmas party: Exclusive: Fight erupts at DLA Piper Christmas celebration

A pre-Christmas night out for DLA Piper staff turned into a brawl, with a senior member of staff hospitalised.

Members of the firm’s marketing department were having a few festive pints at The Gables on Moorgate when a pissed-up reveller (with no connection to the firm) tried to crash the party. After making repeated advances to female members of the group, which were ignored, he announced that “one of you is going to get my cock“. The silver tongued charmer.

And… the judges get in on the act as well…

Judge publicly reprimanded over driving ban

Lord Justice Thorpe did not tell judicial authorities when he was banned for eight weeks after going through a red light

 

In the wake of my astonishment (reported below and here)  at the new logo being sported by BPP Law School earlier in the week, Alex Aldridge picks up the baton, inspiring some amusing comments in his Guardian piece: Law schools should focus on student job prospects, not new logos.

After commenting on BPP’s new ‘Lion’ logo, Alex Aldridge goes on to dissect the performance of a few of the law schools taking extracts from recent Bar Standards Board reports.   I have read all the BSB reports now and they make interesting reading.  I plan to do an analysis next week in some detail.

Solicitor and journalist  David Allen Green  has an interesting piece on the recent fisting Obscenity trial: Obscenity victory

The jury at Southwark Crown Court has returned unanimous Not Guilty verdicts on each of the six charges under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 against Michael Peacock.

The prosecution failed to convince a single juror that any of the DVD material distributed by Peacock was “depraving and corrupting” under the 1959 Act. The DVDs contained sexual practices such as fisting, BDSM, and so-called “watersports” depicted between consenting adults.

It is an important case – one where the jury revealed the flaws in an out of date Obscenity act and took a more tolerant attitude to sexual behaviour among consenting adults.

Law blogger Obiter J asks the question in a thoughtful piece in Legal Week: Do we need the Obscene Publications Acts?

The UK Human Rights blog also reports: Making a Fist of It: The Law and Obscenity

The internet has become an important work and social tool for many.   Adam Wagner considers the issue:  Is internet access a human right?

And finally – a useful round up of some of the UK Law blogs from Shireen Smith: UK Blawg Roundup #9 – Legal Services Act and Alternative Business Structures

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With the new year well under way and showing some early promise of demonstrations of the dark side of the human condition, I thought I would start Rive Gauche this week with a story picked up by RollonFriday.com….

Foul-mouthed judge resigns rather than face the music
RollonFriday.com reports: “A crown court judge who turned the air blue after appearing in court on a dangerous dog charge has resigned. Judge Beatrice Woodcock-Bolton hit the headlines a year ago when her German Shepherd, Georgina, bit one of her neighbours in the leg. Woodcock-Bolton was hauled before Carlisle Magistrates Court where she chewed gum, described the verdict against her as a “f**king travesty” and complained that she would “never sit in a court of law again“…..”

Rather than face the inevitable sack, Judge Woodcock-Bolton resigned on medical grounds…”The Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice have decided no further disciplinary action is required.”

And then there was #Abbottgate – allowing twitter to explode in a frenzy of some real and largely imagined offence-taking. It was, perhaps, unfortunate timing but a day after the verdict and sentencing in the Stephen Lawrence trial for her to tweet “White people love playing divide and rule. We should not play their game,’ and referring to ‘tactics as old  as colonialism’. I gather that Diane Abbott, after Ed Miliband gave her a ‘dressing down’, then remarked on the tendency for London cabbies to drive past black people.

For my part, whatever it is worth, I don’t think that Diane Abbott MP is a racist.  Her tweet was a bit careless.  But not as careless as Ed Miliband’s wonderful tweet on hearing of the death of Blockbusters game show host Bob Holness:

@Ed_Miliband
Sad to hear that Bob Holness has died.  A generation will remember him fondly from Blackbusters.

I understand that the tweet was deleted fairly sharpish and replaced with one without the typo – but The Sun, ever keen to pick up on the the political faux pas of labour politicians caught the tweet just in time.  While I have voted Labour for thirty years, I am not keen on Ed Miliband as a future PM.  I tweeted this morning that he reminded me of a Police Community Support Officer keen to inspect car tax discs.

This week also brought ‘Fisting’ to the fore on twitter: Obscenity trial – the law is not suitable for a digital age

Myles Jackman in the Guardian: “I welcome the jury’s verdict but the OPA means the state is still capable of acting as a voyeur in the bedroom”

I need not trouble you with the facts of R v Peacock.  The coverage has been extensive in the press.  I have no doubt that meedja lawyers and others will blog about it.  Suffice it to say two things:  (1) That I can’t for the life of me see what business it is of the State’s to get involved in private matters between consenting adults and (2)  I have not managed to get around to this particular activity in my 50+ years on the planet. It is unlikely that I will need to develop skill with this technique.  It doesn’t appeal.

Obiter J, in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence trial has an interesting blog post: A look at racial murder, hate crime and the criminal offences available.

Professor Richard Moorhead, Cardiff University Law School asks: Does the legal profession need scholars?

“If we leave the question at ‘do lawyers need to be scholars?’ it is a relatively simple answer of no. We do not need practising lawyers to be devoted purely to the pursuit of knowledge. We cannot expect it of them, nor would it be in their client’s best interests. Lots of lawyers do not have to think or learn in the scholarly sense. They understand, research, diagnose, advise, act.

We should also understand that much of what legal education does is filter students. What firms are really interested in is the best candidates. They go to the universities they regard as the best, and those universities pick whom they regards as the best students. There are flaws in the judgements of universities and firms, but the reputation and quality of UK universities is a key part of the reputation of UK firms. And the ability of UK universities to attract the best students – which will be an increasingly global not national competition – will be a key part of that.”

Bitcher & Prickman cartoons are always worth a look – from US lawyer Charles Fincher Esq

A pleasure to see that family lawyer John Bolch is continuing to provide a remarkable online resource with his coverage of family law matters in Family Lore….@familylaw: Three thousand followers can’t be wrong…

Professor John Flood over at his RATs blog… continues to probe the legal profession’s future with his latest post:  PI(I)GS Might Fly!

The Troika is upsetting big bar associations because it is demanding the liberalization of professions in countries it is bailing out. Key complainers are the American Bar Association and the CCBE. (Thanks to Peter Lederer for the H/T).

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reported that the ABA and CCBE have written a letter to Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund and former head of the world’s largest law firm, Baker & McKenzie, asking her to pass on their concerns at the end of independence of the bar to the heads of the European Union and the European Central Bank…..

AND finally… The White Rabbit could not help himself….

“American born but long term UK resident photographer Eve Arnold has died aged 99. She spent a lot of time photographing Marilyn Monroe. As – erm – can be seen. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself…..”

Read more…..

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I shall return to blogging on the morrow … but with more emphasis on the absurd, egomaniac, self aggrandising   and surreal aspects of law during the festive season… I am on an extended Christmas break – I haven’t had a holiday for just over five years… time to amuse myself… and if it amuses readers of the blog… that will be fine by me.  I am also Painting some new F*ckArt.

Enjoy your Christmas break..

Charon

PS… the Rule of Law schtikery  in my header and tweet… I believe it to be a fair representation of what statute law is about.  After all.. we live in an imperfect democracy and are governed, ineluctably, by imperfectly formed minds… that is not to suggest that all the perfect minds are to be found punting, bloviating, self aggrandising  or judging on Dragons’ Den, Strictly Come Drinking.. or even in our  (‘Best in The World’ –  Copyright D Cameron 2011)  revered Parliament –  or smug blogs.  I would venture to suggest… at the risk of immediate public opprobium and excommunication from the world of law blogging (not that it would trouble me) that this is far from the case 🙂

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Time to have a look at the world of law from the left field again….

In the wake of the truly absurd #Clarkson episode this week – where over 21,000 complainers have contacted the BBC to vent their outrage and many on twitter have knee-jerked their thoughts onto the timeline – David Allen Green wrote it up in The New Statesman: Why Unison is wrong to seek the sacking and arrest of Jeremy Clarkson

The trade union Unison is seeking “urgent legal advice” about what to do regarding Jeremy Clarkson’s comments about strikers being “executed in front of their families. The press release — the words are put to the mouth of Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary — is worth reading carefully.

Amanda Bancroft followed suit in her blog Beneath The Wig: Calm down, dear!

I’m afraid I could not be bothered to take Clarkson’s remarks as anything other than a badly laboured attempt at humour and do not add to the erudition of analysis and debate with my observations on twitter…

@LoveandGarbage usually hits the nail on the head with satire..and this EXCELLENT blog post is a must read if you feel the need to be ANGRY on Twitter… Cut out and keep guide to how to be angry on twitter

Perhaps a bit of serious for the weekend … Sir  / Madam?

Alex Aldridge starts the good cheer at Christmas with…

Law graduates face a bleak future at the bar

“With 65 students applying for each training place, many would-be solicitors face not finding a job within the five-year post-graduation limit…”

And in further good news.. BPP Law School picks up on the Osbornian enthusiasm for private sector growth by announcing a fairly hefty fee rise for the Bar course…

The Lawyer reports:“Aspiring lawyers will have to pay up to £13,550 and £16,540 respectively for the LPC and BPTC in London. Currently the fees are £12,900 and £15,750. The cost of studying the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) will also rise, up by £450 from £8,950 to £9,400.  BPP chief executive Peter Crisp said: “Since 2009, the fees for many of our law programmes have either been frozen or increased at a rate below inflation – for example our GDL and LPC fees have been held for two years. “With a modest increase this year, overall the percentage increase in fees over the last three years has been small and in line with the current rate of inflation.”

With my current taste for a bit of the Latin… this maxim is appropriate… Non plaudite. Modo pecuniam jaciteDon’t applaud. Just throw money

And so we go on… with the profession that just keeps giving…

The judges are not silent…Lady Hale warns of consequences of legal aid cuts The Guardian reports:  “The supreme court judge’s speech to the Law Centres Federation’s conference on the effects of the government’s proposed legal aid bill.”

Lady Hale does, however, note before she delivers an interesting speech..“It is not the proper role of any judge to attack Government policy. If the Government of the day decides that the right solution to a massive budget deficit is massive cuts in public spending, that is a matter for them to decide and Her Majesty’s loyal opposition to oppose if they see fit. The role of Her Majesty’s loyal judges is to decide the resulting disputes according to law.”

Legal aid reform prompts further protest from top judges

The Guardian: £350m cut to legal aid judged a ‘false economy’ and block to swift justice for most vulnerable

Has the Ministry of Justice taken heed.. or is this plan just to suit Government convenience? : Ken Clarke postpones legal aid reforms and tendering

And..what about this marvel from The Bar Standards Board?

The Law Society Gazette reports: “Solicitors are dismissed as ‘superfluous intermediaries’ in a new bar consultation paper which recommends making it easier for the public to bypass them and instruct barristers directly.

The Bar Standards Board is examining whether barristers should be able to accept direct instructions from clients eligible for public funding, and also whether to lift the ban on barristers with under three years’ practising experience from accepting public access instructions.”

Will be interesting to see how this wheeze pans out…

I’ll pop back later, perhaps, with a bit more Rive Gauche.  I feel a need for some medicinal Gin & Mango juice to fortify myself…

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Friday seems to be upon us once again.. so time for Rive Gauche

I thought I would kick orf with a wonderful piece from The Guardian…

European judge slams UK ‘xenophobia’

The Guardian: Sir Nicolas Bratza criticises hostility of senior government figures towards European Convention on Human Rights

Europe’s most powerful judge has publicly complained about “senior members” of the UK government fostering hostility towards the European Convention on Human Rights.

Citing the “vitriolic” and “xenophobic fury” directed against judges on the European Court of Human Rights, Sir Nicolas Bratza has acknowledged that relations between Strasbourg and the supreme court in London are under “strain”.

Sir Nicolas, the UK’s own nominee on the court and currently its president, made his comments at a conference earlier this year but they have only recently been published in a law journal. The paper has been referred to approvingly several times this month by supreme court judges.

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Quality stuff…. and well worth a read.  Lord Phillips and Lord Judge gave evidence recently to a Joint Committee and this speech by Bratza is, I presume, the speech they referred to.  The film of Phillips and Judge giving evidence is also worth looking at.

Before the Gin & mango juice I am taking to exorcise a rather tedious cold I have takes hold – a few more serious pieces:  This from barrister Francis Hoare is an interesting read…

‘Defend the Children of the Poor and Punish the Wrongdoer’: Why the Government’s Legal Aid Reforms are a Recipe for Injustice

Huffington Post

And speculation continues on the sale of the College of Law.

Education Investor reveals: “Pearson is slugging it out for the College of Law deal with at least two private equity firms, EducationInvestor understands. The private college is considering bids from Palamon Capital Partners and Providence Equity Partners, as well as the giant education firm….

…The college is expected to fetch at least £175 million, but some put the likely value of any sale as high as £250 million.”

I’ve commented on this before on the blog.  Pearson was an obvious ‘contender’.  BPP – now with added University cachet – was purchased for a bit more than that by US firm Apollo some time back.  The two big beasts will be able to ‘slug it out’ as private companies if the sale of The College of Law goes through in the brave new dawn envisaged by David ‘Two Brains’ Willetts MP, Minister for Universities.

RollonFriday.com will, no doubt, be on the case soon – with a picture of CEO Nigel Savage mocked up to look like a looter, no doubt. In the meantime, they content themselves with a story about crap food at The College of Law’s Guildford branch. RoF is / are keen to expose crap food in law schools all over the country – so if you are a victim of crap food… enter the RoF competition

The Law of Unintended Consequences 101

Predictably, in the wake of the recent success for The Law Society in closing down the Solicitors from Hell website… this… as reported in The Lawyer:

Host of Solicitors from Hell-style sites appear following court action

But madness does not begin nor end there. Solicitor David Allen Green weighs in on ‘The Freemen’ quackery with a rather good piece in The Lawyer

The Freemen, law blogging, and the public understanding of law

Carl Gardner picks up an interesting twist to the Freemen story… Why would BNP activists be at a “freemen on the land” stunt?

Carl Gardner writes…“I don’t accuse “freemen” generally, and certainly not “commonly known as dom”, of supporting the BNP. No doubt many of them were unaware that BNP activists were present in Birkenhead. But it’s important for anyone who comes into contact with “freemen’s” pseudolegal ideas – especially anyone who thinks of themselves as a radical who meets them, say at a protest – to be aware of the right-wing nature, attraction and potential of “freemanism”. It seems the BNP are aware of it.”

Many lawyers like a drink.  Many lawyers may drink too much.  I have, on occasion, bashed the Rioja a bit at the weekend – fun though it is, it does take a toll on the head and the brain.

Law’s problem with alcohol is slowly being addressed – but is still hush-hush | Alex Aldridge

I read with interest this brutally honest and well written account of alcoholism –  Law Society Gazette: Anthony Bogan, a former Law Society Council member who stood for President in 1996, endured the terrifying realisation that he was an alcoholic, but found that there was light at the end of the tunnel

AND FINALLY… a few blogs and articles  which caught my eye…

Auntie Em from Legal Cheek writes: I want to jack in law to become an artist

Adam Wagner of the UK Human Rights blog comments: Rights on the rocks: Some Bill of Rights Commission responses

One way or another, by the end of this Parliament, rights protections in the UK will look very different. If you could pull yourself away from the spectacle of actor Hugh Grant giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking, the main event in yesterday’s live legal transmission bonanza was the second debate on the Legal Aid and Sentencing of Offenders Bill in the House of Lords.

Although the bill is likely to pass, it is likely to do so in slightly revised form – knowledgable tweeters were predicting that the domestic violence and clinical negligence provisions were most likely to be affected.

Read more…

Lords give legal aid bill ‘a good bashing’

Jon Robins in The Guardian:  examines the highlights of the Lords debate on the legal aid bill being considered alongside welfare reform and health

And babybarista has this.. Those pesky solicitors – OldSmoothie complains that they should never have let solicitors anywhere near court

Old Square barrister saves a life on his way to court

The Lawyer reports: Old Square Chambers barrister Charlie Woodhouse has been hailed a hero by fellow members of the bar after an unlikely turn of events at the Central London County Court saw him go over and above the call of duty.

On Tuesday afternoon Woodhouse, who specialises in personal injury and clinical negligence, was making his way up a staircase en route to a courtroom when he witnessed a man tie a nylon rope around his neck and jump from the first-floor balcony.

According to sources, Woodhouse caught the man by the shoulders of his suit jacket and supported his full body weight for several minutes. He then managed to haul the man over the banister before police arrived.

Read more…

And end with a couple of tweets… enjoy Friday….

UPDATE: Unfortunately.. I woke up at 3.00 on Friday morning … far too early…and had to suffer the misery of early morning BBC telly News…. at 5.00… before the excellent Today prog on Radio 4

AND… really.. finally…

I shall.. naturally.. ensure that my ‘novel Snell on Equity Christmas Tree’ has  a fairy with very clean hands on top.

There are a couple of podcasts below which may be of interest….

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