Not a great deal to report on the blawgs this week. Perhaps it is the floods and plague of frogs?, the prospect of Boris Johnson running for Mayor?, worry about the expulsion of russian diplomats?
But, nevertheless, there are a few good reads. Others have covered this, and I give their links later.
The curse of Da Vinci?
Mr Justice Peter Smith came to the attention of a wider public last year when he embedded a secret code in his judgment on the Da Vinci Code case. (BBC) I seem to remember the code, when cracked, read: “Smithy Code Jackie Fisher who are you Dreadnought.”
Dreadnought, indeed. Mr Justice Peter Smith has certainly attracted the attention of the Court of Appeal in a recent judgment. Briefly: Smith J was invited to recuse himself from hearing a case involving an Addleshaw Goddard (AG) partner. (A Beddoe application in which trustees seek directions from the court with regard to the operation of a trust. Mr Howell, an AG partner, was a trustee in the matter coming before the court.)
Smith J had been involved in discussion with Addleshaw Goddard with a view to joining AG. The talks broke down. Mr Peter Crampin QC wrote to the judge asking him to recuse himself and stand down because of the history between himself and AG. The judge refused by letter dated the same day. He said in the letter that if Mr Crampin wanted to renew the application he should make it in court supported by evidence.
Sir Anthony Clarke MR’s judgment is worth reading in full. It will not take long and reveals an extraordinary course of events. It is clear from the evidence that Mr Justice Peter Smith was not entirely happy about the breakdown of talks with AG relating to him joining the firm or the reasons given by AG. I quote from the judgment (Para 12):
“I feel you have wasted my time for several months. I am extremely disappointed because contrary to your fine words you have allowed the bean counters to prevail. I am not very impressed with you or your firm at the moment and I do not think the tone of your emails enhances the position.”
But the exchange between Peter Crampin QC and Smith J is fascinating, particularly towards the end when the judge says: “If you’re going to say that, you’d better say it with specificity, or you’d better withdraw it, or there might be professional consequences. “
The exchange between Peter Crampin QC and Smith J is remarkable – and I won’t spoil your reading by quoting it here.
Sir Anthony Clarke concluded: “It may well be that the judge became somewhat carried away in the heat of the argument. But for the reasons I have given, I would hold that his attitude throughout, from the emails at the end of May, during the hearing on Friday and in his judgment show that the test for apparent bias is satisfied. As the reviewing court, this court is in a position to form its own view. I have concluded that in all the circumstances, a fair-minded and informed observer would conclude that the judge was biased against AG and its partners, including Mr Howell. It was for that reason that I concluded on Monday that the appeal should be allowed.”
And now the vexed question of “Judgement” and “Judgment”
I was taught that one uses judgement, but a court delivers a ‘judgment’. The Court of Appeal in the case above uses ‘Judgment’. See also: The CPR Parts 24 and 40 (Hat Tip to anonymous poster on Simon Myerson QC’s blog, commenting on Simon’s reference to ‘judgement’.) Ruthie’s Law, commenting on the same case – which is well worth a read, VM uses ‘judgement’ and gives a view that the judge should resign.) Does it matter?
And… finally… if you want a good read on how good the Bar Council is at representing the interests of barrristers – in the view of Geeklawyer – on one issue. Here it is! (As Geeklawyer advises… not ‘Work Safe” and parental control should be exercised.) Offf for an espresso and a bit of Tabloid reading to soothe my mind after this bout of early morning reading.
UPDATE: The Times reports 16 July – that Mr Justice Peter Smith’s conduct is to be investigated by The Office for Judicial Complaints