Rive Gauche: Six absurd things you probably didn’t know about the UK parliament

The Independent: “Britain is looked upon by the world as a beacon of democracy. And if you consider the amount of vitriol thrown back and forth on Twitter between the Corbynites and, well, everyone else, we take our politics pretty seriously.

But behind the veneer are some pretty ridiculous traditions that underpin our democratic system. If you thought our voting system of “first past the post” – the political equivalent to an Olympic 100m final – was absurd enough, you may be surprised to learn about some of the other special traditions that prop up British politics. Frankly, you might also be embarrassed.

We pick our laws out of a goldfish bowl

Private members bills are laws suggested by a private member of Parliament (an MP) that are not part of the Government’s planned programme of legislation. These bills are not listed by manifestos, and they rarely become law – which begs the question of why we bother with them in the first place.

The interesting part? Because there isn’t time to discuss every MP’s ideas for a new law, each year the MPs who are allowed to introduce a bill are picked out of a hat – and this year they were selected from a goldfish bowl in a sort of House of Commons lottery draw.

How it can be justified to pick an issue to be debated, that could in fact become an implemented law, in a Church fete-style lucky dip? We’ll never know.

We kidnap an MP every year

During the Queen’s Speech, it is customary for an MP to be “kidnapped” and “held hostage” at Buckingham Palace. This is so the reigning monarch has a bargaining tool in case anything happens to them during their time at the Houses of Parliament.

It’s a custom more suited to the 16th Century, when the monarchy and parliament actually had serious arguments about who was in charge, but it is still carried on today. Presumably the poor MP isn’t chained to a toilet cistern with a gag ball in their mouth, but we can only hope.

Read the rest – most interesting…

Muttley Dastardly LLP (13): MD are hiring and Dr Strangelove is in the chair – The Trainee Contract Interview

Muttley Dastardly LLP interview once each year for eight trainees.  One will make the cut. Retention rates published in the legal press are of no concern to the firm’s enigmatic Director of Education, Training, Strategy and Psyops – Dr Erasmus Strangelove LLB, JD, BCL, MBA,  Ph.D, Barrister

Dr Strangelove took his seat in The Partner’s boardroom,  positioning himself not at the centre of the twenty-five feet long black polished marble table, but at the head of the table on the left hand side of the room. Five of the more senior partners had gathered in the boardroom to witness the interview. They stood, as is the practice at Muttley Dastardly LLP should Partners wish to observe, behind Dr Strangelove; their features reduced to  silhouette by the dim and carefully constructed lighting. It was still dark outside, the dawn just breaking over The City of London.

Eva Braun, the managing partner’s PA, elegant in a black tailored suit and black high heeled shoes,  walked into the darkened boardroom followed by the first interviewee of the morning, a young man with glasses who peered, slightly nervously, down the length of the  twenty-five foot long black marble table at Dr Strangelove.

“Please take a seat Mr Cholmondely-Rotherhythe… I had the opportunity of watching and hearing you….on our high definition security cameras…  introduce yourself in reception to Ms Braun when you arrived, so I trust that I am pronouncing your name correctly….in the English manner…. Chumley?”

Cholmondely-Rotherhythe sat down in the high backed Charles Rennie Mackintosh chair at the opposite end of the table.

“Yes…Rather!”  Cholmondely-Rotherhythe replied, with the enthusiasm of youth unburdened by the cares of modern legal practice.

“You have made a good start Mr Cholmondely-Rotherhythe by not making any inappropriate sexual advances to Ms Braun on arrival, you were on time and you were sober.  You would be surprised what some who apply here do at interview.”   Strangelove said, drily, tapping on his iPad to bring up Cholmondely-Rotherhythe’s Facebook page.

Cholmondely-Rotherhythe said nothing, but was clearly flustered by the question…or was it a statement?

Strangelove looked up and smiled “On the 24th December 2010, at 03.15 hours GMT, you uploaded a number of photographs of yourself onto your Facebookpage.  Is it a hobby of yours to dress as Dr Frankenfurter from The Rocky Horror Show or was this just a social event where you wished to express your inner rebel?”

Cholmondely-Rotherhythe shifted in the chair, his mouth dry.  He hesitated for a moment “Ah!  That was a Christmas Eve party…the theme was Rocky Horror.  It was my only evening off from studying law all year.”

“Excellent… that you cast yourself as a principal in that wonderful show demonstrates leadership, confidence, style, elan and……. a disregard for the mores and conventions of conservatism.  I note you went to Winchester, took a First at Oxford…you would not be here had you not….and endured the Legal Practice Course, coming first in your year at your provider of choice..and all without trying to persuade a City firm to sponsor you.  This, we take as a positive at Muttley Dastardly.  Now…tell me…. what is your view on the Court of Appeal, yesterday, removing Peter Smith J from the Mills & Reeve negligence case?  Peter Smith J fears nought…or should I saydreadsnought…. but this is not the first time he has got himself into difficulty?”

Cholmondely-Rotherhythe smiled.  He had read about the case that very morning when he got up at 3.00 am to do some final preparation on the legal news of the day.   “Fascinating case and, indeed, I believe his last tussle with a law firm was in relation to Addleshaws.  I was reading The Lawyer earlier and as far as I recall with my eidetic memory..”Peter Smith J made an unfortunate remark about abuse of process and, The Lawyer reported: “Lord Justice Lloyd made it clear that any comments made about the firm’s alleged abuse of power were “altogether unjustified” and that the firm’s “application cannot fairly be regarded as having been launched only in order to delay the resumption of the trial…..When the trial resumes, Lloyd LJ stated, it should do so under a different judge and directions should be also provided by a chancery judge other than Peter Smith J.”

Two of The Partners standing behind Dr Strangelove broke into applause and one observed “Bravo….. not to you for recalling a report in The Lawyer, young man…we expect that… but bravo to the Court of Appeal.”

Strangelove looked up at the young man twenty-five feet away. “Know any law?  At least you have been taught by people who have Ph.ds and academic experience in their subject…the modern tendency is to fill undergraduate minds with practice and business contextualisation…whatever that is,  from people who may not have actually done any business themselves or, indeed, have practised at the cutting edge of modern legal practice in a top City firm.”

“Yes, I know a fair bit of law.” Cholmondely-Rotherhythe replied confidently.

“Good.” Strangelove said with a smile “You will have an opportunity to demonstrate this to two of our Partners shortly.  They will be most interested to hear of your observations on the new Bribery Act…. a statute of some importance in The City and, certainly, to some of our more adventurous clients.  My final questions are these…. do you understand the culture of our firm? Do you understand the meaning behind our motto…Strength & Profits… in other words, do you feel you have what we will happily take from you for ten years with a view to your joining the Partners one day and enjoying those profits which form the latter part of our motto?  We insist that all our trainees join us knowing what is ahead of them….as  my Tort colleagues…. in those dim distant days when I taught law… would say… “are you Volens?”

Rive Gauche: From January 2011 – Not much changes in the ‘Law’ world…

I thought that part of my postcard this week should have a judicial theme….

First up..an interesting post from John Bolch at Family Lore on the work of Mr Justice Charles, the Family Division’s most appealed judge, apparently.

I quote from John’s excellent blog post – the full post is well worth reading:

Joshua Rosenberg has pointed out the Court of Appeal’s criticisms of Mr Justice Charles, who is apparently “the most appealed-against judge in the High Court Family Division and the one whose judgments are overturned the most”. Lord Justice Wilson said that he had spent days trying to understand the 484-paragraph judgment delivered by Mr Justice Charles, and quoted barrister Ashley Murray who had said in Family Law:

“There are certain challenges each of us should attempt in our lifetime and for most these involve a particular jump, a mountain climb, etc. Akin to these in the legal world would be reading from first to last a judgment of Mr Justice Charles.”
To which Lord Justice Wilson commented: “Mr Murray’s introductory sentences were witty and brave. In respect at any rate of the judgment in the present case, they were also, I am sorry to say, apposite.” Excellent stuff.

And then a wonderful story from The Sun…

A JUDGE let rip at “soft” Britain yesterday after he was unable to jail a burglar caught red-handed.

Seething Judge Julian Lambert hit the roof over sentencing guidelines he claimed left him hamstrung.

He said of a probation report that reflected guidance that the raider should go free: “I’ve never seen anything so wet in all my life – 80 hours community work for burgling someone’s house.”

The judge told Daniel Rogers, 25: “I very much regret sentencing guidelines which say I should not send you straight to prison. We live in soft times now.”

…. He then TRIPLED the amount of community work to 240 hours, slapped a six-month CURFEW on the crook and imposed an 18-month SUPERVISION order.

Rogers was caught trying to raid a Bristol house by the man who lived there.

Judge Lambert told him at Bristol Crown Court, where he admitted burglary: “You’ve got the lot. It may be easier for you to do the time.”

But… it is not just The Sun with the judicial stories.The Times got in on the action with no less a personage than Lord David Pannick QC having a pop at the judge who recently disgraced herself when up before the magistrates herself….

How temper tantrums and loss of judgment can dog a legal career

Lord Pannick QC writes…behind The Times paywall... but I have succumbed and subscribed…I missed The Times columnists and it isn’t that expensive even though I also buy the paper edition.

Last month a circuit judge, Beatrice Bolton, swore and stormed out of Carlisle Magistrates’ Court after being convicted of failing to control her alsatian.

It had attacked a neighbour’s sunbathing son, biting him on the leg. The Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice, who are now considering Bolton’s future on the Bench, should make sure that her new year’s resolution — “I will never sit in a court of law again” — is fulfilled.

Bolton, who sits at Newcastle Crown Court, walked out of the magistrates’ court when the verdict was announced, shouting: “I’m going. It’s a f***ing travesty”.

Moving away from the judges… I did enjoy this article from Joshua Rozenburg in The Guardian…..

DPP’s power to block war crimes arrests is in the public interest

Critics who allege that arrest decisions would be liable to political interference are deliberately misunderstanding the case

While it may appeal to Richard Dawkins and others to arrest Popes when they visit here… or Israeli government officials.. or, indeed anyone who can come within the definition of a war criminal….some would say, the odd president of the United States, former British prime ministers returning from important business counting their lecturing fees etc etc etc.. it does seem to me, at 6.35 pm on a lazy Saturday evening, a glass of Rioja to my left, that the ability to prosecute such matters should be placed in the hands of the DPP rather than left to sundry libertarians etc etc  to issue proceedings before a magistrate to obtain an arrest warrant… Rozenburg noting…“a warrant may be obtained by a private prosecutor on little more than a bare allegation that a named individual is guilty of an offence under English law.”.

The Guardian covers the story: “The director of public prosecutions has disclosed how he proposes to use unique new powers enabling him to block the arrest of visiting foreigners accused of war crimes abroad….. “

And… while Egypt blazes…according to The Sun…they did have time, today, to scream…

NEARLY 2,000 jailed thugs and perverts will get the vote under the latest Government plans, it has emerged.

I really do think that it is time for the government to implement the ECHR judgments and move on.  The alternative is that we come out of the European Convention or seek amendments. It would be rather ironic, given that British lawyers after WWII were instrumental in drafting the European Convention,  for us to say now that we don’t actually want to abide by it.Rive Gauche: From January 20111….not much changes in the law world….