Patronising politicians irritate me..and this Tory, particularly…

Thankfully I am back in Scotland and moving towards the Independence for Scotland  route with the SNP so that we don’t have to be ‘governed badly’ by this man and his ilk.    It is a free country – at least for the moment.  I rarely allow my anger with the Tory ‘Government’ to surface – but I am not alone in loathing them.  And I certainly have no faith in the man above.. none whatsoever.

The Tories have very little support in Scotland – thankfully..,and long may that attitude from my fellow Scots continue.   The SNP and Labour and Liberals can run Scotland without Tory ‘assistance’.

The truly sad thing is…the man above will end up dicking around in the Lords and be even more irritatingly smug.  We should abolish the Lords now…or, at least, stop politicians cluttering the place up and using it as an addition to their generous pensions.


AND let us NOT FORGET this… Telegraph report (which I assume, not unreasonably,  is accurate and fair reporting)

MPs’ expenses: Michael Fallon claimed £8,300 too much in mortgage expenses

Michael Fallon, a senior Conservative MP, claimed £8,300 too much in expenses for the mortgage on his second home.

Probably an oversight rather than evidence of natural criminality? I do hope so….. Either way…hardly fit for government?


Even more absurd this :  “Michael Fallon to fees office: ‘I claimed £8,300 too much? Why didn’t you tell me earlier?’




Do follow James Bell – always good for a laugh…

There is an outside chance that I may even find some law to write about – but I am recovering well from recurrent malaria and would not wish it to come back – caused by reading a law report – so I may leave Law until 2016…possibly 2017!

OK, so we’re all a bit messy from time to time …

OK, so we’re all a bit messy from time to time – and some are a lot messier than others.  I often see clients’ desktops that are strewn with files and folders, downloads and clutter, running into several hundred individual icons, files and folders.

So why is that a problem?  Well, your login times are likely to be slower, the messier your desktop is.  It may give you more time to boil the kettle in the morning but, if you prefer to grab a coffee from the shop on the way to work and want to start working more quickly each morning, then read on…

A major consequence of having a ton of files on your desktop is that you’re slowing down logon.  This is because Explorer has to load up all the icons for your desktop when it starts up.  Fewer icons, quicker load.

All those files on your desktop are scanned at logon, to identify any shortcuts associated with a hotkey.  Additionally, information is gathered regarding the programs that the shortcuts refer to, allowing the provision of a grouped icon on the taskbar.  Fewer icons, quicker load.

So cleaning up your desktop will give you a quicker logon time each morning AND it will keep your IT Admin much happier, with data saved in secured and backed-up locations.

The world won’t stop spinning if you keep your messy desktop.  Mind you, the spinning Windows icon will hang around a bit longer each day too, for you to watch as you brew that cup of tea.

matttorrenssproutitWritten by Matt Torrens, Director.


RIP The Labour Party….

Death of a political party: Jeremy Corbyn has killed Labour

“It’s all over. In fact, it was over before it ever really began. I knew it, you knew it, and even many of the poor fish who voted for Jeremy Corbyn knew it. And now everyone knows, as Morrissey put it, That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore.The Labour party, it should now be obvious to everyone, no longer exists as a functional political organisation. Order has disintegrated and it’s every man – and woman – for themselves. Save what you can while you can because things are going to get worse – a lot worse – before they get any better. It is a shambles; a once great party reduced to competing rabbles of independent gangs scavenging for whatever meagre comforts they can rescue from the rubble. Love, peace and harmony? Very nice. But maybe in the next world.

All of which is no great surprise. The notion Jeremy Corbyn could ever become Prime Minister was always preposterous. Not in this lifetime; not in this country. Even so, you begin to marvel at the thoroughness with which he is destroying the Labour party….”

Read the rest of the article

(The bike pic is appropriate.  Mr Corbyn in style?)

Blundering British crime unit now has to investigate itself…

Blundering British crime unit now has to investigate itself

The Independent reports: “The National Crime Agency is reviewing all of its criminal investigations after a succession of blunders led to the collapse of multi-million pound money-laundering cases.

The NCA accepted yesterday that “incompetence” was to blame for the collapse of two cases and said it was reviewing all current warrants used to raid homes, search houses and seize banking records.

The review was launched in September and officials are expected to examine more than “2,000 different parts of documents”, amid concerns that further court cases could collapse.

Lynne Owens, the Chief Constable of Surrey Police, will head the NCA from January next year

In May, i reported the scathing criticisms of the agency by a High Court judge after officers unlawfully used search warrants to plant a surveillance device without warning magistrates. Mr Justice Hickinbottom described the agency as “remarkably ill-informed” and “ignorant” about search warrant procedures.

The case related to an NCA money-laundering investigation involving a family that runs a £60m business empire including hotels and nursing homes. The judge said the NCA “acted with patent and egregious disregard for, or indifference to, the constitutional safeguards” and that the failings were highly likely to occur again.

The NCA said yesterday that it had improved training as a result of the mistakes.

The NCA review comes as Lynne Owens was appointed director general of the agency. The chief constable of Surrey Police will become Britain’s most senior woman police officer when she takes over the £214,000 a year role in January.

Rive Gauche: The Duke of Edinburgh – my favourite Royal

queen28novThe Duke of Edinburgh has given great service to our country – quite apart from the excellent D of E Award Scheme.  He has also given us many laughs.


A selection for you from The Telegraph


When asked if he would like to visit the Soviet Union: “I would like to go to Russia very much, although the bastards murdered half my family.”


The Duke said to Tom Jones after his Royal Variety Performance: “What do you gargle with, pebbles?”.

He later added: “It is very difficult at all to see how it is possible to become immensely valuable by singing what I think are the most hideous songs.”

On the Royal Family’s finances: “We go into the red next year. I shall probably have to give up polo.”


On a tour of Canada: “We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”


During the recession he mused: “Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed.”


When accepting a figurine from a woman during a visit to Kenya he asked: “You are a woman aren’t you?”


Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip during their 1986 Tour of China (Rex)

He told a World Wildlife Fund meeting that “if it has got four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and flies but is not an aeroplane and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it.”

While on an official visit to China, he told a group of British exchange students living in the city of Xian: “If you stay here much longer you’ll all be slitty–eyed.”

His thoughts on Beijing: “Ghastly.”

Duke of Edinburgh defends ‘slitty-eyed’ gaffe


To a British tourist in Hungary in he quipped: “You can’t have been here that long — you haven’t got a pot belly.”

To survivors of the Lockerbie bombing he told them: “People usually say that after a fire it is water damage that is the worst. We are still drying out Windsor Castle.”


“Aren’t most of you descended from pirates?”, he asked an islander in the Cayman Islands.

To a Caribbean rabbit breeder in Anguilla, he said: “Don’t feed your rabbits pawpaw fruit — it acts as a contraceptive. Then again, it might not work on rabbits.”


He asked a Scottish driving instructor in Oban: “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?”


Following the Dunblane massacre, he questioned the need for a firearms ban: “If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, which he could do very easily, I mean, are you going to ban cricket bats?”


The Duke asked a British student who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea: “You managed not to get eaten then?”


In Cardiff he told children from the British Deaf Association, who were standing by a Caribbean steel band: “If you’re near that music it’s no wonder you’re deaf”.


To guests at the opening reception of a new £18million British Embassy in Berlin: “It’s a vast waste of space.”

At a Buckingham Palace drinks party, he told group of female Labour MPs: “Ah, so this is feminist corner then.”

On being offered fine Italian wines by Giuliano Amato, the former Prime Minister, at a dinner in Rome, he is said to have uttered: “Get me a beer. I don’t care what kind it is, just get me a beer!”

“People think there’s a rigid class system here, but dukes have been known to marry chorus girls. Some have even married Americans.”


To Elton John: “Oh it’s you that owns that ghastly car is it? We often see it when driving to Windsor Castle.”


While touring a factory near Edinburgh he said a fuse box was so crude it “looked as though it had been put in by an Indian”.


The Duke of Edinburgh talks to Aboriginal performers in Cairns in 2002 (Fiona Hanson/PA)

To Australian Aborigines during a visit to Australia with the Queen he asked: “Do you still throw spears at each other?”

To the Aircraft Research Association, he said: “If you travel as much as we do, you appreciate the improvements in aircraft design of less noise and more comfort, provided you don’t travel in something called economy class, which sounds ghastly.”


Said to black dance troupe Diversity at the Royal Variety Performance: “Are you all one family?”

To a young fashion designer at Buckingham Palace he told him: “You didn’t design your beard too well, did you? You really must try better with your beard.”

On asking a female Sea Cadet what she did for a living, and being told that she worked in a nightclub (as a barmaid), the Duke asked “Is it a strip club?” Observing her surprise he dismissed the suggestion saying that it was “probably too cold for that anyway”.


At a prize-giving ceremony for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards a girl told him that she’d been to Romania to help in an orphanage. He replied: “Oh yes, there’s a lot of orphanges in Romania – they must breed them”.

Asked Annabel Goldie, the Scottish Tory leader whether she was wearing tartan knickers when welcoming Benedict XVI to Edinburgh.


On approaching his 90th birthday: “Bits are beginning to drop off”.

To the managing director of a wind farm company, the prince said wind turbines were “absolutely useless” and “an absolute disgrace”.


David Miller (Eddie Mulholland)

When meeting a 60-year-old disabled man: “How many people have you knocked over this morning on that thing?” David Miller, a trustee of the Valentine Mansion in Redbridge, said he took no offence.

Others that are undated:

“YOU have mosquitos. I have the Press.”
– To the matron of a hospital in the Caribbean.

“If it doesn’t fart or eat hay then she isn’t interested”
– speaking about his daughter, Princess Anne.

“Can you tell the difference between them?”
– The Duke’s question after President Barack Obama said he met with the leaders of the UK, China and Russia.

“The problem with London is the tourists. They cause the congestion. If we could just stop the tourism, we could stop the congestion.”
– on London traffic.

“Well, you’ll never fly in it, you’re too fat to be an astronaut.”
– to a 13-year-old whilst visiting a space shuttle.

“You look like you’re ready for bed!”
– To the President of Nigeria, dressed in traditional robes.


Views of Perth, Scotland

The Sally Army – marvellous people, great staff.


The River Tay

Excellent local pub

The quiet High Street on a Sunday afternoon

Festive wellies.  The clue ?  It rains a fair bit up here?

The High Street at 4.30 pm 

Bronze sculpture in the High Street – above and below

David Annand’s sculpture, High Street, Perth.
Soutar’s poem is engraved inside the ring of the sculpture.

Nae day sae dark; nae w�d sae bare;
Nae grund sae stour wi’ stane;
But licht comes through; a sang is there;
A glint o’ grass is green.
Wha hasna thol’d his thorter’d hours
And kent, whan they were by,
The tenderness o’ life that fleurs
Rock-fast in misery?

High Street

And my daily pizza with hot chilli oil at Pizza Express, Perth – a fine restaurant

The pizza is being made as I take the picture.  The ‘thing’ on the table is a tweed cap I have taken to wearing !

The centre of Perth and the main High Street and surrounding streets  are almost entirely car and motorbike free – very civilised!


Failure of QC appointment system to deliver diversity “should cast doubt on future of status”

Neil Rose on his Legal Futures site: ” Abolishing the status of QC should now be seriously considered in the light of research that shows male Oxbridge-educated junior barristers from London-based chambers are still far more likely to take silk, according to a new study by the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The research, by former Linklaters solicitor Michael Blackwell, assistant professor of law, said the appointment regime put in place in 2004 has failed to improve diversity, with women still less likely to be appointed than their male equivalents, and the advantages of being Oxbridge-educated and London-based actually becoming even more entrenched….”
Read more

Should you take legal measures to protect your packaging?

Should you take legal measures to protect your packaging?

It’s vital that you don’t underestimate the value of your packaging. It is your packaging that helps your customers recognise your product. Some packaging is so well-known and visible in our day-to-day lives that it can be deemed iconic. As the look of your products can be such as big asset, it’s important that we don’t allow others to make money by using our packaging ideas. Some companies spend millions on designing their packaging. Great packaging is often a sign of quality. It’s wise to take steps to protect your packaging as soon as you can in order to stop others making money from your identity.

What is trade dress?

“Trade dress” is term used to describe the “total image” of a product. It can consist of colours, colour combinations, texture, size and shape. It refers to the factors that help distinguish a product from others on the market. Depending on where you are, you may be able to register your “trade dress” with a patents office to stop others from copying your ideas and placing something that looks too similar to your product onto the market. In the US, companies register “trade dress” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Registration is usually for a period of ten years but can be extended indefinitely after that. Product packaging trade dress is usually treated as separate from the product itself.

Be distinctive

It’s wise to protect your packaging as soon as possible to get the best cover you can. If you have any intellectual property to protect at all, it’s wise to get the right kind of legal professional behind you so know where you stand. Laws can change quickly, but the best IP solicitors will be able to provide you with bespoke advice tailored directly towards your needs. If you fail to protect your packaging, another company could copy it and make money off the back of the reputation you’ve worked hard for. You may also have to work hard to ensure your packaging isn’t too similar to something already on the market.

Get the advice you need

Trademark attorneys will give you the advice you need to ensure your packaging is sufficiently distinctive. The more successful your products become, the more likely it is that your ideas might be stolen. Getting the support of a legal professional at the earliest opportunity is an incredibly wise move as you may require their help regularly whilst your business is growing, and after you’ve fully established your company. Always ask as many questions as you feel you need to if you do feel confused about copyright and intellectual property.

Find the right law firm

It may be wise to speak to a number of copyright lawyers before you decide who to work with. Copyright infringement regarding registered designs can be very problematic, but once you have a trademark attorney to turn to such as Baron Warren Redfern in London, you’ll always be able to ask what to do next. It’s best to take legal measures to protect your packaging even in the early stages of design. Law firms can advise you on branding, shape, colour and design to help you make your packaging distinctive and recognisable.

Medical negligence of the elderly

Medical negligence of the elderly

There are still far too many cases of medical negligence of the elderly in the UK today. Whilst many stories do hit the headlines, some traumatic and horrifying events fail to get the right amount of attention in the media. Whilst the vast majority of care companies can be trusted to deliver the quality they’re paid to, many services are simply failing to adhere to what is expected of them. This can mean elderly people suffering from injuries, abuse and neglect. Medical negligence claims have been on the rise during recent years.

Promote better communication

Medical negligence can be a result of poor communication between patients, care staff, their families and medical professionals. It’s vital that care staff know about medical histories and which medication to give them. Elderly people can have complex medical histories, which can give problems the chance to come to the surface. It’s therefore essential that people work hard to get a good understanding of patients’ needs. Patients should be welcomed to air any concerns about the treatment that they’re receiving.

Types of neglect and abuse

Many care providers have had action taken against them for failing to provide a quality standard of care. Medical negligence and abuse of the elderly can come in many forms. If patients aren’t given the right medication at the right time, aren’t given help with going to the toilet if they need it, aren’t washed properly, suffers from malnutrition or dehydration because of a carer’s actions or lack of them, this is negligence. Perhaps they have been left unsupervised despite living with dementia and Alzheimer’s? This also comes under the umbrella of negligence. Also counted as negligence are being left to go hungry or not being bathed.

It could be time to take action

If you’ve been the victim of negligence or abuse, or wish to take action on behalf of a friend or relative, why not talk to reputable medical negligence lawyers who can help you obtain justice? There are many quality law firms that can deliver the outstanding legal support and representation you require. Medical misdiagnosis, failure to monitor a person’s well-being or not putting aqequate risk assessments in place are also examples of negligence. It’s said that around 1 in 25 people experience negligence or abuse in later life.

Has abuse occurred?

If an elderly person is taken advantage of because of their reduced cognitive or physical abilities, this is abuse. Abuse can also involve threats and violence, and can be sexual in nature. If you think abuse of an elderly person has taken place, there are again many quality law firms that can assist you. If you have spotted bruises or scars that cannot be explained, there’s a chance abuse may have occurred. Encourage any elderly person you’re concerned about to open up if you think they have suffered from abuse or negligence. Make sure the medical negligence solicitors you choose to work with have experience in dealing with cases like yours if you do decide to take legal action. Firms such as Kent Compensation can provide advice and expertise and have experience in dealing with many medical negligence cases.

Good grief… KPMG partners arrested in UK HM Revenue & Customs tax evasion inquiry:

“Four senior executives from the Belfast office of accountancy firm KPMG have been arrested in Belfast on alleged tax evasion charges.

The four partners were visited by officials from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in the city on Wednesday, it emerged today.

In a statement, KPMG said it is cooperating with the HMRC investigation and that the four men have been placed on “administrative leave”.

KPMG said: “Pending further information and enquiry, we can confirm that four partners in our Belfast office are on administrative leave. As the matter is ongoing, KPMG is not in a position to make any further comments at this stage.”

The men in question have been named as Jon D’Arcy, Eamonn Donaghy, Arthur O’Brien and Paul Hollway, and constitute KPMG’s most senior staff in Northern Ireland.

Full story

Rive Gauche: Footists get their own lane in London…true story….

I had 40+ (mostly) good years in London – but I am glad to have escaped to the quieter vistas of Perth in Perth and Kinross, Scotland where I shall live in winter and on the Isle of Arran for a couple of months on the West Coast in Summer.  No plans to return to England. Unlikely that I will, save to make a quick visit to collect my belongings being stored at my brothers house.

I did like the tweet and photo caption above – took me back, briefly.

Guest Post: The importance of technology in business

The importance of technology in business

It’s vital that we don’t underestimate the importance of technology in business. Today, business is so dependent on technology that most companies simply wouldn’t be able to operate if it was taken away from them. Computers are being used to perform everything from simple to incredibly complex tasks. Of course, business existed before the age of computers, but technology has reshaped and boosted what businesses can do dramatically. It’s hard to think of any type of business than doesn’t rely on technology.

Keeping businesses moving

Technology is used for scores of reasons. It helps departments communicate with each other, allows customers to track orders, enables them to make purchases from the comfort of their own homes, ensures companies can stay in control of their budgets, keeps factories operating and much more. Multiple kinds of technology are used to ship goods via the sea, land and air. The internet has made it much easier for companies to network with overseas businesses and customers. It’s possible to start a business from home with very little money and trade with customers all across the world. Technology allows businesses to expand with breath-taking pace and create exposure even with limited advertising budgets. Many companies have built up audiences via social media without having to spend very much money at all.

Smoother collaboration

Technology also means people can collaborate with others even if they are not in the same room, building, town or even country. Video conferencing has destroyed workplace boundaries and various other obstacles. The internet has made it possible for companies set up with extremely modest budgets to expand wildly. No longer are workers limited to making phone calls when they need to interact with each other. Technology has also brought businesses and their customers closer together – it now seems unthinkable that any company would opt out of promoting itself via a website or social media page.

Find the right staff

Recruitment is also easier because of technology – companies can now advertise new job opportunities all around the world. Interviews can take place online rather than on a face-to-face basis. If you have designed your own technology, it’s wise to do all you can to protect your idea and stop others from stealing your ideas. It’s always good to have software solicitors to turn to when you’re faced with legal issues surrounding technology.

Cost-efficient solutions

Technology also helps companies to reduce waste and spend less on paper and printing. Corrections can be made instantly. Companies now require less physical space now that so documents can be filed electronically. Workers can complete tasks on the move, with growing amounts of people fulfilling their duties in coffee houses and on trains. Technology has also reduced travel costs, with many workers performing tasks at home to the same standards they would meet if they were in the office. Cloud computing makes it easy to store data securely – if data is stored in a safe place, the consequences of lost or stolen laptops don’t need to be as dire.

Keep your data safe

Protecting sensitive data is extremely important, so do all you can to make sure information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Technology moves on fast, and new threats are constantly being reported. Make sure you’re protected by quality anti-virus software. Seek advice from the experts if you need help with protecting your software and data. Do you require the services of a technology solicitor? If you’re running a growing business and require in-depth advice on technology law, it’s wise to spend time looking for quality IT lawyers such as Waterfront Solicitors. It’s wise to speak to a number of people before you settle on a technology lawyer. 

Guest Post: Brigadier Grappa takes a view…on Corbyn.

Charon has asked me if I would like to do a guest post.  I asked him how much he would pay me.  He looked a bit surprised and said, with a smile, that he would waive the fee for me on this occasion.

The fact that I know absolutely no law at all, other than the drink driving laws (so I can observe them), is not, surprisingly, a bar to writing on his law blog.  Mind you, having had a look at it – there is not a law on his law blog.  Be that as it may.

I happened to turn on BBC News earlier to find that the Corbyn Johnny,  who is doing his best to rid Britain of The Labour Party,  had a rather lonely time on the Opposition benches in Parliament. As far as I can see – save for a few back benchers seated a long way away – the entire front bench was empty apart from Corbyn.

In my day, in a case of failure – one would be offered a whisky and a loaded revolver and be told where the library was. – an instruction necessary as we were too busy colonising parts of the world to read books.   I have a feeling that if Mr Corbyn were to be offered a revolver he would no idea how it worked – but looking at the picture of him alone on the Opposition benches – it did occur to me that he may have been au fait with the workings of a Gatling gun..  Be that as it may.

I’ll do my best to drum up some Law for this blog at some future time.  But I really must go now to the land of “No Win No Fee” and listen to a bit of Radio 4 on my wireless.  A fair night to you…and don’t forget to stand for The Queen after the Shipping Forecast on Radio 4 on the British Broadcasting Corporation  later.



A few more views of Perth and Pizza Express…

The High Street at 4.30 pm 

Bronze sculpture in the High Street – above and below



David Annand’s sculpture, High Street, Perth.
Soutar’s poem is engraved inside the ring of the sculpture.


Nae day sae dark; nae w�d sae bare;
Nae grund sae stour wi’ stane;
But licht comes through; a sang is there;
A glint o’ grass is green.
Wha hasna thol’d his thorter’d hours
And kent, whan they were by,
The tenderness o’ life that fleurs
Rock-fast in misery?


High Street

And my daily pizza with hot chilli oil at Pizza Express, Perth – a fine restaurant


The pizza is being made as I take the picture.  The ‘thing’ on the table is a tweed cap I have taken to wearing !



From: Matt Muttley

To: All Partners
cc: Dr Strangelove

Date: 24th May 2007


Eva Braun has just put the Evening Standard in front of me. A woman has won a £48 million divorce battle. Do we have anyone who knows any Family Law? If not, can we do a lateral hire? Approach a Silk who is into Family Law and bring him/her into the partnership?

If we only handle high value cases, what would the downside be? Cross-fertilisation into asset management, trusts, tax, off-shore, private equity, hedge fund?

Eva sent me this from a blog: Family Lore“Needless to say, Mr Charman does not accept the words of the President of the Family Division, and has indicated that he intends to appeal again to the House of Lords. Oh well, more money for the lawyers and legal analysts, and more copy for the media…

By the way… one of our associates is sitting at his desk with a Bluetooth earpiece in his ear. I’m looking at him on CCTV now. Looks ridiculous. Think he is in Trusts…. can someone tell him that if he wants to look as if he works in a call centre, we have vacancies in our Mumbai office.

Get back to me if you have any thoughts / ideas

Matt Muttley
Senior and Managing Partner

Post Script:  I attach a  CCTV photograph of the associates floor in the basement at 5.00  this morning.  Not one associate was at his or her position working.  Would you ‘have an encouraging word’ and remind them that work starts here for them at 5.00 am.


From: Matt Muttley, Managing Partner RE: A CHRISTMAS CAROL

From: Matt Muttley, Managing Partner

Date: 25th December 2010


I appreciate that we have scheduled four hours on Christmas Day to attend to matters of family but, as you know, our firm is a 24/7/365 operation and I wish to confirm that we have full cover.  I did, however, last night, have a rather strange experience which I wish to record for the file.

1.  As you know our esteemed co-founding partner, Dastardly, died some time ago.  I use the term ‘died’ in the law firm sense of having retired, but I am advised that he has in fact died in real life as well. He would have approved of the fact that none of us took time off to attend his funeral.  We are pragmatists.  He is dead.  he won’t know.

2.  I was working late tonight.  It was a dark and cold night.  An associate, Tiny Tim, was working late and he rang me, as instructed, to inform me that snow was falling so that I could hedge our power interests while the US markets were still open.

3. At approximately 10.32, I was visited by the ghost of our former Partner.  The meeting, unfortunately, can’t be billed as the Ghost of Dastardly told me that his Amex card did not work ‘where he now was’. I reminded the Ghost of Dastardly that we are not big on pro bono and as the legal press had closed down for two weeks I couldn’t get any leverage on releasing a story about doing pro bono work on Christmas Eve. He understood this (old habits die hard even for ghosts of former partners)  and briefed me quickly on various episodes from my childhood. Fortunately, I was not that innocent when I was a child and I was not moved by his advocacy and plea that we, as a firm, show more compassion.

4. At approximately 11.04, I was visited for a second time by the Ghost of Dastardly.  I misunderstood what he was saying and thought he had returned to give me a present.  This was not the case.  He told me that he was now a Ghost of Christmas Present. He asked me to accompany him to Waitrose where people were buying food for Christmas Day.  I told him that I had an iPad and we could go onto the Waitrose website instead.  Time is money. Dastardly Ghost of Christmas Present then asked me to look at a blog written by one of our former associates who ‘we had to let go’. You may remember him – Rob Cratchit. It would appear that Rob Cratchit was not able to get a job after we fired him and now lives in ‘diminished circumstances’. I asked Dastardly Ghost of Christmas Present if he would kindly get to the point. He told me that we needed to develop a sense of responsibility for our fellow man.  I was able to confirm that we do not take a stance on the political issues of the day, our amoral apolitical stance, means that we can stand above David Cameron’s notions of ‘Big Society’ and retain the clinical objectivity so prized by our client base.

5.  At approximately 12.05 am  on Christmas Day, I was visited by the  Ghost of Dastardly again. He had a copy of The Guardian.  He placed it on my desk and pointed to a story about the dire future which lay ahead of us and a rather curious story about an Australian who has developed a ‘Messiah’ complex and is leaking secrets all over the place. To my astonishment, he then placed a picture on my desk of a grave in a  rather badly tended cemetery, and told me that it was my grave.  I was able to re-assure Ghost of Dastardly of Christmas Yet To Come, as he was now calling himself, that it was highly improbable that a Partner of our firm would be buried in such a run down place and that he really should not watch so much Sky TV given that the future owners of that television station are Australian. Keeping to an Australian theme, I did say that I had been placing fairly substantial investments with ‘our friends’ in Pakistan on The Ashes and on the evidence of the Third Test in Perth, when England collapsed in a rather improbable way, that we could look forward to additional tax free revenue early in the New Year when England did not simply retain The Ashes, but win them.  The Ghost of Dastardly did not  seem to be impressed by this statement.

6.  Finally, I am pleased to report, when I woke on Christmas morning, I felt no particular desire to spend any time whatsoever with my nephew’s family and had no side effects of feelings of love or affection for our fellow man.

7.  We have a Partner’s meeting at 3.00 today to discuss our bonuses.  It will, gentlemen, be a very Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year

Matt Muttley

Strength & Profits

Award yourself a Law Blogging Award 2015 – available on my blog!

lawblof2015Partial as I am, when the mood takes me, to giving myself honours and awards – I thought I would start well before Christmas with a Law Blogging Award 2015.  Treat yourself – take the pic and give one to yourself!

The Image is located for your convenience to the right – which may well appeal those of you who blog and have a taste for the politics of the Right Off The Wall Wing of The Tory Party !

These are dark, cold days, why not treat yourself?!


Taxi for Mr Corbyn! … Time to go…and now – Please

And this from Chris Deerin

The Corbyn show is already over — but let’s keep laughing

When Iain Duncan Smith’s calamitous leadership of the Conservatives reached its lowest point — which, if I recall correctly, was somewhere beneath the Marianas Trench — it was put to him that he could soon expect a visit from ‘the men in grey suits’ — that is, party grandees who would hand him a glass of whisky and a revolver, and expect him to do the right thing.

IDS, a former lieutenant in the Scots Guards, bristled at the suggestion. ‘Then they will leave without their suits!’ he warned.

Tough talk from the Quiet Man. But the hopelessness of his position was exposed by the exquisite response from a Tory backbencher: ‘That’s fighting talk bordering on the homoerotic.’

Once they’ve started laughing at you, you’re done. Disagreement can be debated, anger confronted, disillusionment won round, but the black humour of the lost cause is always and everywhere terminal.

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is already over. It is no more. It has ceased to be. It has rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. It is an ex-leadership. He may stay in situ beyond the guaranteed catastrophe of next May’s various electoral tests; horrifyingly, he may even cling on, like some energy-sucking wraith, until the next general election, ensuring a historically unprecedented mauling. If he does, he will leave behind him a desiccated corpse, a Labour Party locked in an eternal scream and locked out of power, and his name will live in infamy. Whatever, he will not, and cannot, lead. He makes IDS look like FDR….

Read the full article

(I am a strong and long time supporter of Labour – 42+ years to be exact.  Worst leader apart from Gordon Brown – but close – we have had)

The legal issues about Christmas – important to plan now to avoid costly problems

Memo to all Members of the firm from Matt Muttley
Senior Partner, Muttley Dastardly LLP

Following guidelines issued recently by the Advisory Consiliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), as reported in The Evening Standard , it appears that this firm owes a ‘duty of care’ to our staff and could face legal action if employees don’t get home safely after the Christmas Party.

Further, it is well known that quite a few employment disputes arise over incidents which take place at Christmas parties. Older members of the firm may recall a senior associate, some years ago, being asked to leave the firm for groping the wife of our senior partner in an ‘inappropriate manner’ – which, of course, begs the question as to what would be ‘appropriate groping’. Law Firm, Peninsula, according to the Standard report, has carried out a study and this has shown ‘that most bosses believed their workers drank too much at the annual festive bash.’

What is more worrying is that the ACAS pamphlet identified , and I quote from The Standard, ‘several office party situations that bosses could be held liable for such as staff stumbling out drunk and injuring themselves.’ We could also be held liable if employees are bullied by other employees during the party.

Apparently, we have to be careful about our choice of music at the party. Under new age discrimination laws, music must be chosen to reflect the interests of all people invited to the party. While Led Zepellin may appeal to the more mature (can I say this now?) members of the firm, it may not to the younger members. While X factor wannabe music may delight the younger members, I can tell you that it it does little for me and if it were to be played at a Christmas party I may well be able to sue the firm for discrimination on grounds of age, let alone for abusing my human rights. (Are damages tax free?.. could be something in this… Eva… check this out with Tax people, please) Nor, it is recommended, should we continue our practice of providing bottles of Champagne as prizes for ‘best dressed managing partner’, etc etc on grounds that it could offend those whose religions do not permit the drinking of alcohol.

Although lights and decorations are approved, because they are not ‘inherently religious symbols’, we do, of course, have to consider possible liability in negligence in case any member of staff injures themselves on a Christmas tree, a piece of tinsel or by using a Christmas cracker.

Taking all these things into account; the managing board of the firm has decided to cancel Christmas this year. We would, however, like to wish you a Good (and profitable) New Year.

Conversation: Judge Richard Kopf

Conversation: Judge Richard Kopf

When invited by Charon QC to convene an interview on judges and their judging, my first wish was an audience with Rich Kopf, that is to say The Hon. Richard G. Kopf, United States District Judge, D. Nebraska. I would tell you all about him, but I thought better of it and wrote down our conversation of this week, for which I am grateful.

-Michael Cavendish

MC: Starting in 1997 you presided over a legal challenge to a new statute by the Nebraska legislature that restricted abortions—in what became a series of suits at the different tiers of our legal system now called the Carhart cases. You were the trial judge charged with making the ruling in the first instance over whether this abortion ban the legislators had enacted violated the Constitution?

RK: Yes, that is true.  The Carhart cases involved so-called “partial birth” abortions. In fact, those types of abortions involved a surgical technique that had nothing to do with “birth,” (or viable fetuses).  Indeed, the challenged technique had been in use for over a hundred years. In some cases, that technique was clearly safer than other available surgical techniques. 

In the first Carhart case, the Supreme Court agreed with me.  In the second Carhart case, and after Justice O’Connor retired, the Supreme Court effectively reversed itself and disagreed with me. 

Other than the composition of the Supreme Court, nothing significant had changed. 

I was very disturbed by the “about face” and, as a result, have since recused myself from handling any civil cases involving the regulation of abortion.  In the recusal order (click on 2011-10), I wrote, among other things, that: “I am honestly unable to provide a principled explanation as to why the Supreme Court affirmed the decision in the first case, but reversed the decision in the second one.”

MC: The lawyer for the respondent in Carhart, who was the Deputy Attorney General for Nebraska at the time, wrote a formal law journal article that criticized your rulings in the case during 1997 and 1998, and then he went on to advocate the same argument when the U.S. Supreme Court took up the matter, which Nebraska lost on appeal in the year 2000. 

RK: Yes.  See Steven Grasz, If Standing Bear Could Talk…Why There is no Constitutional Right to Kill a Partially-Born Human Being, 33 Creighton Law Review 23 (2000).  Mr. Grasz is a brilliant fellow.

It seemed to me that Mr. Grasz was making a neo-conservative argument that federal district judges should be “activist” in certain types of cases, and that this activism should be employed by federal district judges like myself when reading the precedents of my judicial superiors on the Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

MC: You then wrote a candid journal article of your own in the same journal, the Creighton Law Review, that in part was a response to this Nebraska state official’s formal arguments against your decisions, but that on balance more so became a focused discussion on just how challenging it can be for the trial judge to adhere the outcome of a real, live controversy to a body of legal precedent that cannot be optioned away from the suit.

RK: True.  See Richard G. Kopf, An Essay on Precedent, Standing Bear, Partial-Birth Abortion and Word Games – A Response to Steve Grasz and other Conservatives, 35 Creighton L. Rev. 11 (2002).

The essential point of the essay is that federal district judges should fairly read and apply the precedents of their judicial superiors no matter where that reading and application takes the judge after he or she has found the facts. 

That task is not easy, but it is hard reconcile the job of a federal trial judge in our hierarchical judicial system without such an approach. 

Remembering that the federal judicial branch is fundamentally undemocratic, and that federal district judges primarily function as fact finders, my response to Mr. Grasz was to reject his neoconservative call for judicial activism in favor of a far more limited role for federal district judges.

MC: What was the aftermath of your exercise in writing a scholastic response to this lawyer who was continuing his advocacy, as von Clausewitz might say, by other means, and in writing a, almost a jurist’s own soliloquy on the experience of trying to marry a charged, turbulent social issue like abortion to these binding Supreme Court precedents, the well-known Roe v. Wade and Casey opinions?

RK: Well, first, let this be clear:  My response to Mr. Grasz was written after the first Carhart decision had been rendered by the Supreme Court, and before I was received the second Carhart case to decide.  That is, I was not commenting upon a pending or impending case.

From the article, my essay has been viewed or downloaded around 325 times according the Creighton Law Review. Other than that, I know not.

But as for the “aftermath” of handling the Carhart cases, I received roughly a thousand fairly nasty e-mails and at least one death threat that was serious enough that the FBI looked into it. 

I once had aspirations to be elevated to the Court of Appeals under President George W. Bush, but, when an opening became available, I was passed over largely (so I believe) because my Carhart decisions were so unpopular. 

To be fair, the fellow (Bill Riley) who went on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals is my dear friend and law school classmate. He is universally held in the highest regard.  Indeed, he is now our absolutely superb Chief Judge. Looking back on it, things worked out just fine for me.  But, I will be forever grateful that I have enjoyed the protections of life tenure guaranteed by the Constitution.

MC: When this same Carhart dispute that had decided was taken up by our Supreme Court, within the Supreme Court’s opinion, some thought there was a certain amount of chastisement of you in the words of one of the writing Justices, Anthony Kennedy, to the effect that you as the trial judge were too quick to rule and enjoin the law before various state interests within the Nebraska political realm had first weighed in?

RK: Yes, that is true, and it came in the first Carhart case in a dissent.  I thought Justice Kennedy’s comments were unfair.  Much more importantly, he was just plain wrong on the facts.  See here for the details.

MC: Were there times during the long Carhart timeline when you felt like Paul Scofield’s Sir Thomas More in A Man For All Seasons? By which I mean did you feel the visceral isolation, loneliness, and sense of unpopularity that a judicial officer who is supposed to find and then follow a law will inevitably encounter?

RK: In no way, shape, or form should I ever be compared to Sir Thomas More! (The same is true for David Paul Scofield, a brilliant actor.) 

Personally, I had very little at stake. I had the protections of life tenure, and no threat to be hung, drawn and quartered.  Throughout, my wife and my staff (who I consider to be part of my family) shielded me, in many respects, from the feelings of isolation.

MC: One might suppose that a trial judge is always potentially subject to unpopularity from below, from the lawyers who implead the judge to rule one way or another, but also from above, from the superior court with oversight that can review and comment and reverse him? Your experience adjudicating Carhart seems an intense example of how a judge can feel the weight of criticism, of unpopularity, from both above and below, simultaneously.

RK: You are correct.  But our late and great Judge Richard Arnold told me on the occasion of my investiture as a district judge that I would never again be as popular as I was on that day, and in emphasis he added, “After today, it is all downhill.” 

He was right, as he almost always was, during the entirety of his magnificent life.

MC: More than a decade after your work in Carhart, you would launch a blog—the first, and, I think, still the only dedicated blog authored by an American federal judge—it was named Hercules and the umpire. And the first thing you blogged about was the principle that “a trial courtroom is not an abstraction.”

RK: Indeed. What goes on in a trial courtroom is visceral as much as it is intellectual. In large part, this is because trial courts are primarily designed to find facts using adversarial tools.

MC: I think that, in chief, you were starting a conversation about the difficulty between trial and appellate courts in viewing shared cases through the same lens, the court further removed tending to abstractify the matter more. But I think that your principle applies equally to lawyers coming to court. Some of us have the tendency to envision law’s rules as the precious or living things to hand, rather than the people who are trying to figure a mess out with the guidance of those rules. What could be more abstract than a defense counsel quibbling over a pleading in a motion to dismiss?

RK: What you work toward is that it is extremely important that a lawyer know his or her audience. And, by extension, Courts of Appeal think very little of what we trial judges think about the law, but they think a great deal of what we think of the facts.

MC: Another principle you set out for discussion on Hercules is that “judges should not fear to judge.” Is that also to do with resisting abstractions? Does it strike at the idea that the judge must crystallize into reality an outcome from a set of facts set in reality, and that if the decision is based in abstractions . . . well, can one under-judge a matter in the way that a chef can under-cook a dish?

RK: Exactly right.  That’s why I don’t eat Sushi!

MC: When we consider what a living person thinks about what certain laws mean, a term from science and the humanities that comes to mind is “observer bias.” Laws can sit by themselves on a bookshelf until they are needed, but once they are needed they are applied by someone in the decision maker’s chair; our legal observer.

Thinking about “observer bias,” many lawyers seem to rush to court saying ‘the law is thus and so, and here is why.’ And many scholars of jurisprudence write very nice tracts about the deep roots of law, and whether those are natural, like rocks and wind, or whether they are a man-made overlay to the natural world, like a bicycle. But doesn’t it seem that both the lawyers and the scholars too often don’t ask, ‘who is sitting in the chair of decision?’ and ‘from whence does law arise according to their view?’

How often have you perceived a disconnect in your courtroom with the lawyers appearing that you could attribute to the fact that you as the judge are saddled with an observer’s bias and the lawyer arguing is going on about a law or the law as if it had no observers, as if there was no place law itself resided at except the bookshelf?

RK: What a fascinating question! How often do I perceive this disconnect?  Every day. 

One of the books that greatly influenced my thinking about law had little to do with law.  That book is Language in Thought and Action, a text on semantics, by the late Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa. Two things the great man wrote are especially relevant here, so I will quote—

Regarding the Meaning of Words

1. “Citizens of a modern society . . . need to be systematically aware of the powers and limitations of symbols, especially words, if they are to guard against being driven into complete bewilderment by the complexity of their semantic environment. The first of the principles governing symbols is this: The symbol is NOT the thing symbolized; the word is NOT the thing; the map is NOT the territory it stands for.”  (Emphasis mine.)

Discovering One’s Biases and Endeavoring to Blunt Them

2.  “The point is that by the process of selection and abstraction imposed on us by our own interests and background, experience comes to all of us . . . already slanted . . . The writer who is neither an advocate nor an opponent avoids slanting, except when he is seeking special literary effects. The avoidance of slanting is not only a matter of being fair and impartial; it is even more importantly a matter of making good maps of the territory of experience. The profoundly biased individual cannot make good maps because he can see an enemy only as an enemy and a friend only as a friend. The individual with genuine skill in writing — one who has imagination and insight — can look at the same subject from many points of view.” (Emphasis mine.)

In short, to Hayakawa, it makes a great deal of difference whether your “observer” (the judge) is aware of these two important principles. 

It is even more important that the advocate be aware of these principles, and the frightening possibility that the judge is clueless regarding such things.

MC: That is utterly harrowing, and also illuminating. Thank you!

While we speak of external realities, in another blog post on Hercules, you asked, and I think it was tongue-in-cheek, whether your federal appellate court had “gone nuts.”

From a cold read of that post, you seemed to be talking about what a political scientist would call realpolitik—the gulf between what we think is the way something is done, and the way we observe something to be done, and the plausible explanation for the change in process.

Did you get feedback from raising court’s chamber’s realpolitik-in-action as a blog topic?

RK: The sense that I have is that lawyers appreciate realpolitik and judges are afraid of it. That said, I never, ever received one word of criticism from the members of the Court of Appeals about this blog post or my blogging efforts, writ large.

MC: And speaking further of the external, your blog championed a thought piece by Lee Epstein and Jack Knight which proposed that, surprise(!), judges, like everyone else, are motivated in their jobs by esteem, prestige, influence, promotion, income, and leisure.

That judges might feel and follow these most human of impulses should surprise no one. And it may be something that is talked about at judges-only conclaves. But it has long been my sense as a lawyer that such talk is by habit taboo, is truly verboten, for lawyers to take up, outside of their most furtive and hushed lunchtime conversations.

Is the legal system leaving some improvement unfinished by not fostering more open discussions about how judging is a career and how that can give rise to perceptions of careerism, and what can be done to counterbalance those perceptions? Should there be anthropologists studying judges and delivering findings to judicial collegiums?

RK: Yes, and yes! It is truly verboten for the practicing bar to speak of such things to judges, both because lawyers are too timid, and because there are few venues for brutally frank exchanges between lawyers and almighty federal judges.  That is a shame.  We judges could learn a lot from lawyers on these subjects.  And, yes, having a variety of scholars studying federal judges—like cultural anthropologists (or, my new favorite, neuroscientists)—could do wonders for the judiciary and for the public.

MC: The most noticed judicial opinion in America in the last 12 months was the Supreme Court’s opinion in Obergefell, where the Court recognized the right of gay marriage.

The Chief Justice, John Roberts, was in the dissent, and he wrote a dissenting opinion that ended along the lines of ‘look here, celebrate love, celebrate marriage, but don’t celebrate the Constitution as you think of this ruling, because this has nothing to do with the Constitution.’

And Richard Posner, who needs no  introduction, came out with a written piece that called Roberts’s ending “heartless,” and that in another section cast an outlook that the gay question was for faith and not law as vaguely theocratic.

And you blogged on Hercules in defense of the Chief Justice and said that Posner was dead wrong in his interpretation of Roberts’s ‘don’t think this is about the Constitution’ statement in the final passage. How did you read what John Roberts wrote at the end of his dissent in Obergefell?

RK: I took the Chief Justice at his words. Those words were these: 

If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it. (Emphasis mine.)

It seemed to me that the Chief was not “heartless,” but genuinely  pleased for those who would benefit from a decision that he earnestly believed was not grounded solidly in the Constitution.  Judge Posner had absolutely no factual basis for saying otherwise.

MC: Posner himself is someone who you have high regard for, I suppose both as a jurist and as an intellect. He wrote a book, Public Intellectuals, that was a kind of paean to the age when there were more accomplished members of society, across all vocations, writing and discussing our shared societal problems in public for a, like newspapers, and now, blogs.

Posner placed great importance on the role of the public intellectual. And he himself is one and is also a full-time jurist of no small distinction.

Through Hercules, you experienced something of this dual role that Posner has legendarily carved for himself. What is the experience, internally, of being seen and talked about as a public commenter on a platform that is followed like yours was but who is also filling the narrow and conventional role of “judge”? And what do you suspect was the chief thing your readership prized about the fact that you were, as Posner exhorts the sidelined savants of the world to do, taking up for public debate the issues that you saw around you?

RK: I think my modest readership arose because, first, I wrote transparently about the federal judiciary, particularly the under-studied federal trial courts. Second, I wrote transparently about myself, and third, I welcomed comments and wrote replies quite frequently.

Again, in no way, shape, or form should I ever be compared with Judge Posner. He is a universe unto himself.

MC: Like many, I enjoyed reading Hercules because you sought to demystify the judge and the role of judging. I found this both helpful, to me, and healthy to society, in terms of how plain talk about what you as a judge do tends to dispel misunderstanding and conspiratorial speculation.  Have you met other judges who have strong points of view and who seem to be subject matter experts on something or other who should be blogging, as public intellectuals? What are we missing out on?

RK: Yes, there are many federal judges who could contribute greatly to the public discourse.  We are missing out on a lot when judges who have something to say silence themselves unnecessarily. 

MC: I will offer that, simply viewed in terms of resources and capabilities, I live in a community of one million, and we have fifteen federal trial judges, District and Magistrates combined, and we have another forty or so trial judges in our local state court, and so that is over fifty top legal professionals who have the experience and the brainpower to speak cogently on something for the public.

And I hate to think that, within their number there are one or two who may feel the impulse to write for a popular audience, but are told or have told themselves that they need to keep their heads down.

To make a lame pun, that would represent talent “left on the bench.” How can we, lawyers particularly, encourage the next Hercules, or the next set of Richard Posners giving us the benefit of their ideas outside of strict adjudication?

RK: To be blunt, lawyers can’t do very much about it.  But it is inevitable that younger judges, who have grown up with social media, will view blogging and tweeting as perfectly appropriate endeavors.

For example, a Florida judge has taken to tweeting about legal and judicial matters (@SMarstiller). Judges in Georgia (@JudgeDillard) and Texas (@JusticeWillett) are likewise tweeting their hearts away.

The longer form—blogging—is sure to follow. In short, have patience. Transparent federal judicial engagement with the wider public will come via blogging, just as surely as television coverage will come to the Supreme Court.

MC: Let me heat the skillet back up as we drive toward a finale. Earlier this summer you blogged a response to a campaign proposal by Ted Cruz, a Republican Senator in Texas, who is running for President, to subject the class of federal judges like yourself who serve lifetime appointments to a review and recall process, which would be a very significant revision to the U.S. Constitution. Your response was that Cruz was unfit to ascend to the office of President.

In terms of style and timing and overall effect, this was a rejoinder that the great American argumentician William F. Buckley, Jr. might coach you into. He might have called it an “intensifier.” It certainly seemed to be a comment that drew heat to you and to Hercules from various quarters.

RK: First, as I stated in one of my later posts (here), my suggestion that Senator Cruz was unfit to serve as President violated Canon 5(C) of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges that prohibits judges from engaging in “other” political activity.

Second, although much of the blog post about Cruz fit squarely within Canon 4(A)(1) of the Code of Conduct for United States (a “judge may speak, write, lecture, teach, and participate in other activities concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice”), my excessive rhetorical flourish was foolish.  I gave aid and comfort to those who either hated my views or hated the idea that a federal judge blogged.

On a side note, I loved watching Buckley.  He was a true public intellectual.  I especially liked it when Buckley and another great public intellectual, Gore Vidal, nearly came to blows on TV during the 1968 Democratic Convention.  See here (look particularly at time record 10:02).

MC: At last, I’ll turn the tables on my own kind. Are there lawyers out there who should speak out more in public forums and apart from their or their clients’ personal and proprietary interests? Should the practicing lawyer endeavor toward the second status of public intellectual?

A: One of my favorite writers and public intellectuals (who, incidentally, would be insulted by me attaching the term “public intellectual” to his name) is Scott Greenfield.  His long-running blog Simple Justice is consistently thought provoking.  He writes from the perspective of a criminal defense lawyer but does not limit himself to such matters.

So, yes, lawyers should speak out through blogging or otherwise as it is in the public interest for them to do so.  After all, one third of our government is given over exclusively to lawyers!


Michael Cavendish is an American trial lawyer appearing specially with Charon QC.

Rive Gauche: Woof justice? – Court refuses to hear claim brought by two dogs

Woof justice? – Court refuses to hear claim brought by two dogs

by Thomas Sutherland


A judge has recently thrown out a claim brought by two dogs, Goldie and Diamond, against HSBC Bank.Whilst I can’t comment on the pedigree of the claim, I can report that the Judge was quick to point out that there are several reasons why only people can commence legal proceedings.

The first is the wording of the law itself, which restricts claims to being brought by people.  Clearly, despite the sharpness and astuteness of Snoopy or Mutley in televised cartoons, a dog is not a legal person.

Secondly, a dog cannot give instructions to a Solicitor to commence a claim or be forced to comply with a court order.  I would not envy the task of anyone instructed to retrieve a £1,000 debt claim against Scooby Doo.  Albeit I would imagine that Scooby snacks have some monetary value…

It is therefore clear that anyone considering bringing a legal action in the name of their dog should paws for a minute and think again!

Rive Gauche: The Daily Mail runs riot?

Bullying Tatler Tory is kicked out of the party: Cameron’s election aide molested a string of women says insider

  •  Six people complained about Mark Clarke over five years
  •  Anonymous party member claimed that Mr Clarke, 38, molested women
  •  Accused of bullying activist, Elliott Johnson, 21, who was found dead
  •  Claims that Tories swept the allegations under the carpet
  •  For more on the latest Tories scandal visit

Read more:

Interview with Richard Hugo-Hamman, Executive Chairman of LEAP

Interview with Richard Hugo-Hamman, Executive Chairman of LEAP

3rd November 2015

Richard Hugo-Hamman is Executive Chairman of LEAP – the biggest software provider to the conveyancing industry in Australia. LEAP launched in the UK in October last year so Today’s Conveyancer caught up with Richard to find out how it’s going….

What’s your background Richard and how long have you been with LEAP?

“I was a lawyer years ago – I had a legal practice in my native South Africa and we did lots of conveyancing. I was a very early adopter of IT and found that the technology side of the business suited my personality better – the law tends to look backwards whereas the software industry is very forward-looking. So I’ve been involved in legal software full-time since 1992 and I love it. It’s thrilling to see how technology can help people.

“I joined LEAP 10 years ago – there were 27 of us then and we made a plan and executed it. There are now 240 people working at LEAP software and we support more than 12,000 small law firms and licensed conveyancers around the world.”

Why do you think Australia leads the world in terms of conveyancing software?

“Well I don’t know if that’s true or not but I do know that about 4000 firms use LEAP for a conveyancing transaction every week.

“For starters, we love what we do and we’re culturally obsessive about feedback – not just the negative stuff but sitting with our clients in their offices understanding how they work. Our exclusive focus is small law firms and licensed conveyancers. This has been tremendously beneficial because we have not been distracted by the demands of large ‘conveyancing shops’ – it’s our job to help the little guy be more efficient and profitable and the popularity of our software indicates that we achieve that.

“When conveyancing fees were deregulated in Australia there was a very early realisation that the only way a law firm could make conveyancing profitable was through great technology so, in the early to mid-90s, a lot of talented people began work on that. And we did it – we made the conveyancing process super-efficient. We estimate that LEAP is used in about 60% of annual conveyancing transactions in Australia.

“This is highly specialised – we’ve been doing it for more than 20 years – and we are continually revising our software. We’re innovative and pro-active and that’s how we got to the top of the market in Australia and stayed there. But our focus on the needs of conveyancers and licensed conveyancers in small firms is perhaps the key. To succeed, we need to be obsessive.

“I am sure that the firms that use LEAP make more money and have more satisfying work lives than those that don’t. As for sole practitioners, LEAP is very often the only business partner they have so we play a vital role in their lives.”

What makes the UK an interesting market for you?

“The UK and Australia share the same legal system and many lawyers who qualified in the UK practice in Australia. The conveyancing process is very similar in both countries so the work is immediately recognisable to a conveyancing solicitor in either jurisdiction. We tested our software here in the UK and all our research showed that LEAP was likely to be popular with small law firms that do conveyancing. It also gives us the opportunity to grow the company beyond Australian borders.”

As well as launching LEAP over here, you’ve made a few acquisitions over the past couple of years?

“Yes, it’s impossible to learn about a new market from scratch so the safest way for us to enter the UK was to acquire local knowledge through acquisitions. This gave us a good client base to start with but – more importantly – great local people who know a lot about how small law firms work in the UK. And now these experienced people guide us so we don’t make dumb choices. LEAP bought Peapod in the UK in June 2013; then acquired Edgebyte in 2014 and Perfect Software earlier this year. We are still supporting all those products so we have about 2,400 paying legal firm clients in the UK now.”

So how has the UK taken to LEAP?

“Well, we launched in October 2014 – exactly 12 months ago – and more than 300 law firms have purchased LEAP in the past year. The feedback from UK lawyers has been great – just read the testimonials on our website – but it’s a very compelling system. In five years’ time, we expect to have 3000 UK law firms using LEAP. We’re ambitious but we know we have the best product on the market. Our development team has more than 50 software developers working exclusively on LEAP and is creating world leading software for small law firms. We’re innovating all the time.”

What makes LEAP such a good system?

“What we have done better than anyone else in the world is combine the case management system and the accounting side of conveyancing in a single application. Because we listen so obsessively to feedback the software is remarkably practical and easy to use for anyone familiar with the conveyancing process.

“LEAP’s other major advantage is that it’s a true cloud product so it can be used anywhere, making it tremendously appealing. Simplified IT with massively lower annual IT hardware, licensing and support costs is very attractive to small firms. Interestingly mobile phone use of LEAP in the UK is double what it is in Australia. Perhaps people in the UK spend more time on public transport or sitting in their car on the M25 but the accessibility aspect of LEAP obviously really works for them.

“Another major advantage of the system is that we introduced integrated searching in Australia back in 2001 and that means that you can order searches direct from our case management system – it’s seamless. The result is automatically returned to the document management system and the cost is automatically debited on the matter ledger. It is incredibly convenient, reduces errors and saves costs.

“We brought integrated searching to the UK in August 2015 – we integrate with InfoTrack, and it’s proving to be tremendously popular. Already more than 50 clients in the UK are using our integrated search system and they’re very happy with it.

“We also spend a lot of money on customer service. We work constantly on online support assistance and have a physical helpdesk with operators that speak to people from our office in Twickenham.”

Do you have any plans to visit the UK, Richard?

“Yes, I visit the UK regularly and will be over again in mid-November – I’ve actually spent most of the past two years in the UK. On each trip I get out and meet clients to hear from the coalface, as it were, how our software is being used. It is vital to understand the local market.

“Many lawyers in small law firms in the UK feel that they are caught in a vice between overbearing compliance requirements, the legal aid agency and disproportionate negative publicity when something goes wrong for one of their number.

“We can help them. In my experience most lawyers in small law firms are remarkably dedicated to helping people; they do most of the pro bono work and they help their clients through important transactions like buying and selling a property – mostly honestly and with integrity. It is our job at LEAP to provide them with the productivity tools to do the work profitably and the business organisation framework to make compliance a natural consequence of running a firm well. We want them to enjoy the practice of law more and removing administrative and organisational stress is the way to do that.”

For more information about LEAP log on to

Rive Gauche: A blast from the past – in more ways than one.

Some years ago I lived on a houseboat on The Thames at Cheyne Walk, Chelsea.  It was fun.  The river was always interesting with people rowing, sailing by in boats and some just whiling some time.  I used to have breakfast every morning at 7.00 am at the same cafe – always the same breakfast – Bacon, two eggs, beans, toast and black coffee.

This happened one morning..

This morning I chose a different cafe just off The King’s Road.  I have been there many times – the food is good and I can sit outside, smoke, read my papers and, especially if it is cold and slightly drizzly, I am usually on my tod.  This morning, however, in a late climatic rally, the sun was out and so were the weird people.  Some would call them chavs.  Two over nourished female barrage balloons with hair drawn off their faces and held in a pony tail to make themselves look even more over-nourished waddled about and sat down at the tables nearest the cafe door. They were soon joined by a bloke with a moustache wearing Chelsea FC football strip. The Polish waitress took their order, smiling away, but even she found it difficult to maintain her composure when man with moustache farted – a ripper that GAZPROM could probably have sold on the natural gas market.

I’m afraid that I was unable to contain myself and started laughing in a mildly manic way, like a weird guy on the Tube, prompting the barrage balloons to swivel in my direction. I was reading The Observer and, rather than state the obvious and congratulate the man on his remarkable expertise I pointed to an article I was reading, muttered away like Boris Johnson,  and continued reading. I watched out of the corner of my eye as these weird people started eating.  They did not appear to understand cutlery.  Further farting followed… with the odd belch.  It was not a good start to the day.  Thankfully I was only having a coffee. I had to leave. Chelsea is a curious place – more observations on The King’s Road in later postcards.


Banking with the Co-op Bank has been a bad experience recently for me.

About ten days ago a thief hacked into my bank account and cleaned it out – leaving 4p in the account.  I had no money for food.   The Co-op Bank closed that account, set up another and said they would send me a PIN to access the funds.  I tend to believe Banks so I duly arranged for payments to go into the new account.  This was foolish – because the promised PIN number has not arrived and is very overdue.  I am not impressed by the Co-op.  Incompetent in this instance at best.  So I shall find a new bank – one in Perth, where I plan to live out my life. If the PIN does not arrive tomorrow, as promised – they promised it would arrive today – I have no other goods up here (All in London) to sell! Fingers crossed. To be fair – Co-op Bank has always been good in the past.  I have a simple debit card, no frills and it used to work just fine.

Fortunately, there is a local shop in Perth called Trading Places (a marvellous shop) and I was able to sell a small Nikon Camera and Zambian Flywhisk given to me by President Kaunda 43 years for teaching one of his sons to swim.  (I swam at Olympic and Commonwealth Games standards for the 100 metres freestyle in those days recording a personal best of 51.2 seconds.  Sadly, my studies, it was deemed by the school,  were more important than representing Scotland at sports events – so I never had the pleasure of swimming for my own country.)  I could still swim 100 metres at 60 years of age in just under 60 seconds! Not that this skill is terribly useful to me  these days.

Anyway…great to be back in Perth, Scotland, which will be my base now until I die….many years hence, hopefully.


PS – Co-op have contacted me and assured me all being sorted.

Chef Charon’s Boeuf Buggerorf.

With no money to buy food because The Co-op Bank is useless and I haven’t had my PIN after a theft from my bank account – plenty of money in the account, though. (A new card had to be issued) – I thought it appropriate to tender Chef Charon’s recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon…

A recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon done in a slow cooker or ‘crockpot’

1. Buy a slow cooker (£20 – or use a hob and cook gently for about 2 hours and then transfer to a hot oven 180C to thicken the gravy for about 15 minutes.)

Using the slow cooker on a high setting for 5-6 hours:

2. Chop topside, sirloin,  rump or even cheaper cuts of beef into chunks. Coat with flour (I prefer cornflour) and season with salt and  pepper.  Brown in frying pan using groundnut or sunflower oil until the meat has a good colour on the outside

3.  Chop carrots, onion, mushroom, onion/challots and small potatoes (keep the skin on) garlic  – some mixed herbs and anything else you fancy by way of veg.

4. Add about 1/4 pint of beef stock available from supermarkets.  Put in a small amount of fat from the beef to render down and provide depth to the gravy.

5. Add a full bottle of decent burgundy.  The burgundy will cost about £6-10 depending on your budget.  It is worth using good wine. Frankly any heavy bodied wine will give good flavour

6. Cook for 5-6 hours with the slow cooker on high or 9-10 hours with the slow cooker on low.

Garlic and chive mash

It will take about 20 minutes or so to cook some small potatoes with or without skins (I like skins on for this dish)

1. Cook potatoes until you can put a fork into the heart of the cut potatoes. Drain water, mash, add garlic puree or chopped garlic, chopped chives and butter.  Mash until you have the mash the way you like it.

Quantities are irrelevant with slow cooking.  Some people are greedy.  Work out how much you like, add for friends. Make enough for some the next day – because it does taste better the next day and you can heat it up fairly quickly on a stove. Best to make a new batch of mash, though.

Rioja, Burgundy, Barolo, Cotes du Rhone… in fact.. most reds go well with this.




We support France


Paris attacks: Hollande blames Islamic State for ‘act of war’


The rights of the peaceful cannot be compromised by brutal killings done by the ignorant and intolerant – and certainly NOT by those who follow a grotesque distortion of  religious belief.




Rive Gauche: And…so to Peerages, Knighthoods et al

And…so to Peerages, Knighthoods et al

Yet again my envelope from the Palace will be ‘lost in the post’   – C’est la vie, as we say in Perth (The Auld Alliance). We live in a wonderfully eccentric country and the pageant and history (bloody though it has been) forges our eccentricity and talent and culture as a nation. Does it really matter if someone wants to call themselves ‘Lord Perjury’ or ‘Sir Alan’ or run onto stage as ‘Sir Mick’? Not really. I shall content myself with being called ‘Citizen Charon’ and continue to wave my glass around another glass and say the toast “To the King across the water” while taking of the vino rosso.

Have a good and enjoyable weekend…

Rive Gauche: Happy Christmas – Drafting from a Lawyer

I received this from a friend some years back

Dear Charon,

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially cohesive, trans-national, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, exercised according to accepted best practice traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all and a fiscally successful, financially prudent, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2007, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society are helping build a fully inclusive and socially democratic European Union (not to imply that the European Union is necessarily more inclusive or socially democratic than any other place, country or region of choice), and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, or sexual orientation of the wishee or wishees.

This wish is limited to the customary and usual good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first. ‘Holiday’ is not intended to, nor shall it be considered, limited to the usual Judeo-Christian celebrations or observances, or to such activities of any organized or ad hoc religious community, group, individual or belief (or lack thereof).

Note: By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher at any time, for any reason or for no reason at all. This greeting is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. This greeting implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for the wishee her/himself or others, or responsibility for the consequences which may arise from the implementation or non-implementation of same. This greeting is void where prohibited by law.

Not only that, Merry Christmas……


The Dean of Law’s address on my first day at University reading Law in 1972

I began my academic career at a good university, but one, unfortunately placed geographically, far too distant from where I wished to be, so I did not spend much time there. I did make occasional journeys to the university town, with the intention of visiting the law school, but often found myself waylaid by the attractions of a fine pub – The Marquis of Granby –  situated about half a mile from the Law School and was not always able to make it to the school.  I managed to attend about seven  tutorials and three lectures over the course of the three years of the degree.  I could see little point in listening to someone reading ponderously  out of a textbook, either their own or one written by  someone else. I can read faster than they can talk. however, remember the Dean giving all the new students an address. The Dean, Professor Edward Griew,  was a solemn man, newly elevated to professorial rank, a man whose knowledge of criminal and other law stupefied the judges when he was at the Bar, to a point where it was felt that his talents might be better used in academe – which, indeed, they were.

He looked straight at us all. His eyes flickered and darted from side to side. He spoke quickly as he told us that of the 100 in the theatre only two would get a First, twelve, possibly, fifteen, would get an Upper Second, the herd would get Lower Seconds (and find solace practising law in modest firms), a few would get Thirds (and find little pleasure in a life in the law) and, sadly, – looking menacingly around the theatre: “Five to six of you will get pass degrees – a certificate of incompetence.”

I’m afraid, possibly though mild intoxication, that I found this absurdly funny and burst out laughing.

“Mr Charon” the Dean asked “Perhaps you find that amusing? Why so?”

I cannot, of course, remember the exact words which I used to reply (It always amazes me how people who write biographies can remember almost every word they spoke in their lives) but I will give the gist (and in future posts, should I need to resort to dialogue, I will ask you to imagine that I can remember every single word.)

“Well it is rather amusing, Professor Griew. How can anyone spend three years of their lives studying something and end up with a certificate of incompetence? Better to cut the losses after the first year and run.” The Dean merely smiled and passed on to other matters. I could, however, see a few anxious looks on the faces of my fellow students. There were eight women on the course. This was most disappointing. Things have changed – a theme to which I shall return when I next post.  It was however, and still is, an excellent law school


Fortunately I managed to do enough work on the law to get a good degree and then I was able to make my escape and  go into founding and running Law Schools et al….BPP Law School,  but one of my ventures over 40 years.

* I tuned down the opportunoty to read law at Cambridge – which I regretted. I was offered a place  – but I fell in love with  a woman who later became my first wife…so by no means not all bad!

This Balinese Cockfight: Deep Play in America’s Presidential Primary


This Balinese Cockfight: Deep Play in America’s Presidential Primary

by Michael Cavendish

I’ve been re-reading the stylish and penetrating Clifford Geertz lately. My favorite piece by Geertz is a book segment titled “Deep Play: Notes on a Balinese Cockfight.”

Geertz worked as an anthropologist in Bali as Margaret Mead did in Samoa. In Deep Play, this précis that I like so much, Geertz studied Bali’s public cockfighting; a premier sporting, social, and political event.

Extracting resonant human observation from the Balinese cockfight, Geertz invoked Jeremy Bentham’s concept of “deep play,” a state of intentioned, vanishing equipoise where a competition takes on greater psychological significance the more evenly balanced the contestants are, and the richer the stakes are for the contestants and their backers and bettors.

What were a cockfight’s stakes? Geertz’s Bali cockfights approached the state of deep play when a backer’s long-groomed bird might beat the best fighting cock on the island, that opposing bird which every citizen setting themselves against the backer, by personality, by clan, by ideology, or by chance, had poured their hopes into.

The fact that the birds fought in these contests was hardly worth notice; they were really contests—affairs of honor—between their backers. The fact that some transactional advantage, like a winning bet, could accompany a bird’s win in the fight, was only slightly more germane to the event.

What the successful backer sought from the biggest match on the island, the deep play contest, was a total victory paid out in prestige, repute, standing, and a psychological advantage over the losers. The winner would feel viscerally validated in worldview, and cosmically justified in any formal hostilities he had nursed against the losing camp.

Et voila! There may not be any closer simulacrum to what Geertz found at these cockfights than 2015’s primary contest for nomination to the office of America’s next president.

Earlier this week there premiered another televised debate, the fifth for the Republicans, on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Business Network. The eight leading candidates—having been groomed, having been exercised in their points and authorities—mounted the stage for two hours of strutting, scratching, and the wait before the pounce, whether or not the chance ever came. Immediate news commentary followed.

“Bush was steady!”

“Rubio continued to impress.”

“Rand Paul got noticed.”

“Trump was booed, but zinged Bush again.”

Geertz took down just this level of commentary in his Bali field journals. Summed up, they translated in English to “I like the speckled cock!” Or the “brown,” or the “heavily plumed.”

What doesn’t get reported in the immediate news cycle following these debates is the great pouring out of hopes decocted by the contestant’s backers and bettors. And, goodness, but there are more of those in this campaign than there are villagers in all of Bali.

Some of these Republican challengers are their own backers. Donald Trump hasn’t fundraised and doesn’t accept grooming. Jeb Bush is a dynast.  Dynasts do not have keepers so much as royalist fans, whatever the donation. 

At the opposite end, there is Marco Rubio. Rubio is the least well-off candidate of the Republican Eight. He undergoes criticism for habitually being unable to distinguish between two credit cards—a blue one that was “his” and a red one that was “his organization’s.” His campaign, which is dynamic and reactive and may be a winner when all is done, is heavily financed by a number of billionaire mega-donors. And it must be so underwritten or, with Rubio’s own financial picture, the candidacy could never exist. These financial titans spending down their treasure to advance his prospects are Rubio’s backers. And he is their fighting bird. Perhaps—we’ll see—the best on the island this time around.

Then there are bettors. Rand Paul is a Senator. An economic libertarian and the son of an economic libertarian elected to Congress. Paul is the fiscal-legacy equivalent in America of Marine Le Pen’s nationalist-legacy in France. He draws a wide swath of 200, 500, and 1000 dollar donations from individuals. If the man donating watches Rand Paul in the debate and thrills to his answers and also dog-cusses any slights against him, and thus against his donor’s interest, he is in every meaningful way like Geertz’s cockfight bettors.

If the donor is at all experienced, he will know that no tangible reward from a Paul election-night victory will return to him because of his winning bet. But it isn’t about the money. What it is about—as Geertz found—is the bettor’s self-actualization as an ultimate victor, and more importantly, his emotional exorcism of the carried grief accreting from the as yet unpunished alien qualities of the rival bettors.

Bernie Sanders is Hillary Clinton’s closest opponent on the Democratic Party side, and he may have more bettors—small donation supporters who will emotionally live or die, or who will experience sweet deliverance from the ordinary, or suffer dire spiraling pathos sucking away what joy there was at hand—than any other candidate. #feeltheBern, the legion Sanders bettors like to say.

On Twitter we can see the bettors just as clearly as we can view the fighting birds. Geertz would have adored Twitter—as an informant, as a data pipe for probing research into the American village.

The backers, these deep pockets, and the groomers, handlers, and strategists the deep pockets fund, remain more opaque. But we know they are there. Sometimes they are reported on in the press. The casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is a prime example of a heavily-pressed backer. Sometimes they step from the blind, as when the industrialist and reputed Republican kingmaker Charles Koch wrote an April 2014 Op-Ed to the Wall Street Journal defending the virtue of his spreading hundreds of millions of dollars backing candidates and also “issues.”

Koch was responding to bettors on rival birds, who took umbrage at just how very much hope and treasure he was pouring into the gamecocks he’d brought to the big matches, and who were raining derision down on him and his political program from other edges of the cockfight ring. All were surprised he’d felt the need to respond. But Geertz would say that to back a prized bird in the village square becomes a binding personal and emotional commitment. The derision pained him, even as monetarily astral and secure as he is.

Some American presidential contests were not competitive. Walter Mondale hardly moved the needle against Reagan in 1984. In these lopsided affairs, the favorites never feel threatened and the underdogs never get their hopes too high, and Geertz’s proposition of Jeremy Bentham’s state of “deep play” doesn’t materialize. The last time around, with Mitt Romney direly challenging Obama, we saw a close, high stakes, “deep play” contest with vast money and, it follows, hopes pouring in from all edges. This cycle could eclipse Obama vs. Romney utterly.

The deeper the deep in “deep play,” the higher is the high of the “total” victory that results, and the baser the vanquishment is for the losing candidate. The November 11 edition of the New York Times made the front page comment that after this latest debate, America’s GOP candidates were in a contest over nothing less than “what it means to be a conservative.” This is indeed deep play, with high stakes, and for the losing proponents of “what it means,” total vanquishment looms.

Geertz found, but any adult also knows, that a scintillated victor and a coruscated loser do not make for a happy or easy pairing. Geertz found that tensions, ruptures, and gnawed away social fabric resulted after the bigger-deal cockfights. You can see this same unraveling dynamic inside the Republican Party as this year’s bruising debates, Twitter wars, and frenemy raids on opponent poll numbers play out.

Bush and Rubio, over, no longer Florida chums. Ted Cruz, who wants Trumps’ fans after Trump self-combusts, has taken to aspersing rival camps who roll eyes at The Donald as being juvenile. Three sitting Senators in the same Republican Party, Rubio, Cruz, and Rand Paul, have just started a public debate over whether a GOP perma-shibboleth—defense spending—is a good idea considering the annual national deficit.

Lead Republican candidate Dr. Ben Carson has claimed to be a man of great past violence—he of hammers, and knives—and has now issued something like the Incredible Hulk’s “you won’t like me when I’m angry” warning to rivals and interested journalists who suspect him to be a gentle fabulist in search of a Marvel-worthy backstory.

It is all no wonder that the latest Newsmax poll finds that “crazy” is the top adjective American voters think of when they are asked to sum the election so far with a single word.

This primary for the American presidency resembles nothing so much as a Balinese cockfight.

If I want to understand “what it means,” or where armchair anthropologists like me are headed, with our astonishment, and our typical studied disinterest that is now peeling away like flaking paint, I must resort to reading Geertz.

Geertz and Jeremy Bentham would have me ignore the birds—one will finally emerge anyway, as ever—to focus on the backers and the bettors. Because it is those men who actually fight on that televised stage.

Michael Cavendish is an American trial lawyer in Florida appearing specially with Charon QC.

Update to bank theft from my Co-op bank account – Co-op incompetence?

I had all my money stolen from my Co-op bank account last night by a thief. How they did it I do not know as card was in my possession at all times.  Spoke to Co-op.  They said fraud and would refund.  They also said safe to use card.  Transferred £20 from Paypal to bank.  Went to use card at HSBC branch – card was retained by the machine.  Co-op bank were surprised.  Said would send another card – 5 working days.  No money for food or anything for five days.  I marvel.  Sheer incompetence on the part of Co-op bank.  I can open an account elsewhere but that takes 5 working days – so no use at all. I am to say the least –  up the creek without a paddle and no food etc etc.

Luckily…I had an old compact Nikon snapshot camera which raised £20 – sold it to a marvellous shop in Perth Called Trading Places.

Thieves have stolen everything in my bank account

I don’t have much – but thieves hacked into my bank account and took everything that has come in over the past two days – leaving me with 4p.  I can’t even buy food now.  Bank useless. Say they will send me another card – seven working days…so no banking until end of next week and no money.

I rarely get angry – but I am very angry with Co-op Bank and will have to move to another bank tomorrow and cancel my account with them which I have had for 10 years.

I loathe thieves. They are scum.  Bank could not have cared less.

Muttley Dastardly LLP advises Charon QC on how to deal with law firms that don’t pay

Dear Charon,

I am sorry to hear of your difficulties persuading ‘reputable’ law firms – I am surprised  there are many left – to pay your invoices.

As you have kindly given good service to this firm, we are taking the unprecedented step in the history of our firm – breaking our hearts though it does – to assist you pro bono by throwing the book at the client who has failed to pay.

In fact, to give some comfort to you,  I am dealing with this matter  myself and will pray in aid a number of superinjunctions, winding up orders and general legal mischief to make their position in the market somewhat precarious.  This latter tactic is being handled by our specialist DarknetOps Unit.

I suspect that you will be paid within 5 minutes of the client receiving our email and supporting 200 page draft claim which is being delivered as I type this email to you in my own Bentley.  Don’t worry about paying us back. The law firm will be prepared to settle our bill which is pleasingly substantial.  Meanwhile, I have arranged for our kitchens to send over by taxi, some egg & Cress sandwiches and a bottle of decent Rioja.  I assume you are still amusing yourself by eating aforementioned egg & cress sandwiches?


With kind regards


Dr Strangle-Ove
Senior Partner, Muttley Dastardly LLP


Leading Family Law Organisation calls for Blame Free Divorces

Leading Family Law Organisation calls for Blame Free Divorces
Muna Saleem is an associate solicitor with Crisp & Co

Modern families are changing. The declining and prevailing view of the nuclear family is being replaced by a more varied and complex social family fabric where divorces, single parent families, step families and same sex couples are increasingly common. As with many societal shifts, the law can often be slow to recognise and adapt to change and nowhere has this caused more consternation and division than divorce law.

Leading the charge of the would-be reformers is Britain’s most senior family judge, Sir James Munby, who, in 2014, called for the introduction of so-called “no fault” divorces,. He has now been joined by the likes of leading family law organisation Resolution, as well as Britain’s most senior female judge, Lady Hale of Richmond . With legal aid cuts continuing to take their toll on an already overburdened court system, this pressure on government to act is unlikely to abate anytime soon.

But why are leading legal figures and organisations calling for blame to be taken out of divorce proceedings? And what exactly would this mean for divorcing couples?

Divorce Law as it Currently Stands

The law as it currently stands requires that one or more of the following grounds for divorce are met before the matter can go to court:

  • Adultery (defined as sex with someone of the opposite sex)
  • Unreasonable Behaviour (includes physical violence, verbal abuse, non payment of housekeeping)
  • Desertion (must be without agreement or good reason for more than 2 years in last 2.5)
  • Two year separation (with joint consent)
  • Five year separation (with single party consent)

A judge will grant a divorce if one of these grounds can be proven, which would imply that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and only the can the divorce proceed.

Why Remove the Blame

By removing the element of blame in divorce proceedings, advocates of “no fault” divorces argue that the system will better reflect the consensual nature of so many divorces, in which a marriage has broken down amicably but in which both parties don’t have adequate grounds for divorce. Sir James Munby has argued that this would bring ‘intellectual honesty to the system.’

On a more practical note, proponents of reform argue that by allowing a registrar to process a consensual divorce as a purely administrative matter, a huge burden would be lifted form the overburdened family court system.

In comments made recently, Lady Hale of Richmond said she wanted to see the ‘bitterness’ taken out of matrimonial breakdown by removing the legal prerequisite of having to ascertain blame. Both she and the other advocates of change, insist that the law has become outdated and that a significant number of the 118,000 couples who divorce in England and Wales each year are perfectly capable of separating without the unnecessary need for burdening the family courts.

Opposition to Reform

The main argument against the concept of taking blame out of divorce proceedings is that it undermines the sanctity of marriage. Advocates of this view usually insist on the need to push back against the breakdown of traditional family units. They are, on the whole, socially conservative and more often than not argue their case from a Christian perspective that marriage is a sacred act and that any attempt to relegate its dissolution to an administrative matter is a step too far.

Andrea Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre, has said that “the elite seems to have lost confidence in marriage and appears intent on diluting and dismantling it… If divorce becomes still less serious, it will be children and the most vulnerable who suffer most.”

Opposition has also come from legal quarters, with many experienced lawyers arguing that Munby’s view represents a ‘radical’ departure from the practices of the past. Many also argue that the precondition of acknowledging blame can actually strengthen the hand of a wronged party, especially where unreasonable behaviour or adultery are involved.

“I am in favour of being able to obtain no fault divorce perhaps by a shorter period of separation than the current two years,” says leading family law expert  Marilyn Stowe, “but equally I do understand from many years of experience with devastated individuals why many people would wish to retain fault as another reason for the irretrievable breakdown of marriage.”

Cohabitation Rights

Munby’s argument is certainly controversial to some but it is undoubtedly an honest reflection of the complex reality of the country’s patchwork of family units. One of these realities is the growth of cohabiting couples, which the law fails to recognise entirely and here too Munby and Resolution are arguing for reform.

Proposals by the Law Commission in 2007 to reform the law and bring it more in line with the Scottish model, in which cohabiting couples have certain rights during separation, have so far not borne fruit.

With women particularly hard hit after the breakdown of a long term cohabiting relationship and legal aid cuts seeing many vulnerable individuals poorly informed or even representing themselves in court, reform to divorce law may feel radical to some but to so many others it couldn’t come soon enough.

About the Author: Muna Saleem is an associate solicitor with Crisp & Co, a Family Law firm with offices across South East England. She is an accredited member of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel, practicing in all areas of private family law from divorce and financial remedy applications to cohabitee disputes and children matters such as Child Arrangement Orders and international relocation applications. You can connect with her or any of Crisp & Co’s solicitor’s on Facebook or call them direct on 020 3468 6721.

Digging up a blog post from the past

HowzatApril 2007
The blogs are alive… with the sound of mutiny…

The music to Teddy Bears Picnic and, curiously, The Sound of Music came into my mind as I settled down to write… and, I was pleased to note, that…. Josephine Bloggs added….

“…’cause that’s the way the Pre-sid-ent has his piiiiiiiiicnic!”
Comment by Josephine Bloggs on Accidental law Student



I write from my Staterooms in West London… of villainy, outrage, and ambition….

“O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!”

Hamlet (I, v, 106)

At a Law School… ’somewhere in England’ – a Mooting Competition has caught the imagination of law bloggers, students and… Charon.

The facts, from the many reports I have read, are as follows:

1. A mooting competition was held at a Law School in England. The President of the Mooting Society (’El Presidente’) was eliminated from the moot competiton at the quarter-final stage (’his first internal moot’ See: Blog Reports [2007] )

2. While there is some evidence that ‘The society’s usual course of action was not to replace mooters who dropped out but to continue with however many participants remained’, El Presidente re-entered himself into the semi-final of the competition to replace people who had dropped out, went on to win the semi-final and, subsequently, The Final. El President, thereby, won the ‘entire competition’ and, I quote from the report: ‘having participated in a mere three out of five moots of which only two were successful, and the first of which had disqualified him from the competition altogether.’ (I am grateful to Accidental Law Student for his precise raportage)

3. El Presidente : ‘immodestly drank a champagne toast to his own ‘victory’ from the silver winner’s trophy of this year’s internal mooting competition.” per Josephine Bloggs


I spent a most enjoyable hour last night reading the various accounts of this extraordinary event.

For my part, the bloggers who are objecting to the behaviour of El Presidente have a point. It is ridiculous that a competitor, eliminated from a quarter-final, should re-appear in the semi-final and then go on to win the Final. (Mind you… it has to be said, if the England Cricket Team had been able to pull a similar stunt off in the cricket World Cup… it is likely that I would overlook such a solecism !)

Fellow blogger, Corporate Blawg UK, weighs in with a comment: “Yeah – he sounds like a weasily cheating b*star*d who deserves to be properly screwed (but without the full facts it is hard to tell for certain). The professional caveat in brackets is noted by Charon!) See: Comment

Josephine Bloggs took a robust view: “Seems to be rather lot of jiggery pokery altogether”

London Law student goes straight to the point: “Not for the first time, the internal mooting competition has thrown up a distinctly bad smell.”

Follow the links I have given above and you will find out even more. (BTW: If the facts are as represented in the various source blogs there is no defamation.)

Was it the fact that El Presidente won the Final after pulling a quite astonishing stunt, drank champagne out of the ‘Winner’s Trophy’ or just broke the rules? … who knows… ?

Excellent stuff… I have only this to add… a message to El Presidente:

“Ad eundum quo nemo ante iitTo boldly go where no mooter has gone before”
Have a good weekend… one and all… and I just happen to have a bottle of vino rosso to drink!

(Vinum bellum iucunumque est, sed animo corporeque caretIt’s a nice little wine, but it lacks character and depth)

Law Review: A quick round up

Rive Gauche: New Year’s Eve 2006

I wrote this post on New Year’s Eve 2006.  I thought  would dig it up and give it another airing.

I am at The Bollo. It is 8.05 and I feel like a BBC ’embedded’ reporter in a war zone. The mood is tense and expectant. No-one here is sure what is going to happen tonight. Bar crew have been preparing for an influx of drinkers with a precision I was able to witness first hand. I saw the Stella and Champagne bottles being loaded into the shelves. I counted them in..and, later, I will count them out.

We know that there will be a large number of ‘revellers’ appearing later. A Japanese TV reporter I spoke to earlier (a Japanese station appears to be covering the event) told me that he felt they would come over the hill like Zulus…’thousands of ’em’, at about 9.00. In the meantime, we can only wait…

8.25 pm first wave starts…

I am standing at the Bar. In front of me is a small notice board which advertises ‘shots’. We saw the first signs of action a few moment ago… a quick strike… a group of young women drinking pints…

8.45 pm. I have just had a quick drink with Tim Graveney – who popped in for a quick one. He knows about cricket. I shall not, however refer to the cricket, save to report an email (cleaned up slightly) which I received the other day.

A young boy is sitting in class. He looks sad and depressed. The teacher goes over to him and asks “Why are you looking so sad.”

The boy turns to her and says “My dad is a pole dancer in a nightclub.”

The teacher, taken aback, and slightly shocked says “Are you telling the truth?”

“No”, replied the boy “He is playing cricket for England, but I was too embarrassed to tell you that.”

9.00 pm Just a jump to the left.

“It’s astounding
Time is fleeting
Madness takes its toll
But listen closely”

The noise of horns and the crack of crackers is like a Turner painting… a snow storm, a maelstrom….. I can barely think. Smoke rises from the tables and the build up to the ‘shock and awe’ of the New Year has begun…

A man dressed in a corset, high heels and stockings, who appears to be commanding the latest group to secure their position in this West London gastropub, told me that it was only a matter of time to a new world… and that he was watching the position closely. He may have been a Navy Seal.. he may have been SAS. It didn’t matter. He seemed to know what he was doing. I turned to ask him another question… but he had gone…

9.30… the power is waning…

I am still at the Bar… the final waves have arrived. It was precise, almost surgical… It has not been easy to report live from The Bollo… I am getting some unusual looks… my battery is dying… I may be gone for some time…

10.11 pm… Returned to The Staterooms

I left The Bollo a few minutes ago… and have returned to my Staterooms in West London. I was a bit hungry – and was fortunate in finding some cheese in one of my fridges – a Red Leicester.. and some Jacob’s crackers. I had, of course, anticipated eating a three course meal tonight – but… that was not to be. So… Jacob’s crackers and cheese it is!

I am now drinking La Rioja Vina Ardanza 1994 – I had a case of it a short while ago, a gift from a good friend. I don’t appear to have much of the case left. It is delicious…and gives one a clarity of thought and exposition… It reminds me of our European history and how we took many hundreds of years to become democratic – to the point where David Cameron can announce today, that he wants the Conservative Party to represent working people… excellent idea…. wonder why Tony didn’t think of it first.

10.27 pm… Romania and Bulgaria join the EU.

It is highly unlikely that I would, in any other circumstance, have posted on this blog that Romania and Bulgaria have joined the EU. But… I just happened to click the BBC website to find something interesting to read or watch and saw this announcement. I understand, given that H M Government miscalculated the number of Polish emigrants when Poland joined, that we are restricting the right of Bulgarians and Romanians to work in the UK? I may have misread a report along the way. I read the BBC story – but just cannot be bothered to analyse it…. so, if you are minded to do so (to see how strict the EU is going to be with the new entrants and learn about ‘waning enthusiasm’ for expansion.)

If you a ‘europhobe’… this map will irritate the hell out of you! Great BBC graphic!

PS:  I  use my blog as a diary.  to record things that I am interested in. 


Rive Gauche: Gas from 2186 sheep forced plane to make emergency landing in Bali after setting off smoke alarms

A good friend alerted me to this important story about sheep farting.  As I have not had time (nor inclination, frankly)  to do any real work or read law today – it seems only right that I should alert readers of the blog to this story: “The Aviation Herald reports the cargo flight from Australia to Kuala Lumpur, with 4 crew and 2186 sheep on-board, was flying just to the south of Indonesia when the smoke alarms sounded on October 26.

Crew on-board SQ-7108 descended the aircraft immediately and diverted to Bali where they landed about 45 minutes later.

Emergency services didn’t find any trace of fire or smoke and identified the cause to be the result of exhaust gasses and manure produced by the sheep….”

That is all…back soon, quite possibly with matters of Law.

On Cameron, Hillary, and the Pull of Gravitas

On Cameron, Hillary, and the Pull of Gravitas

by Michael Cavendish, Trial Lawyer, Florida, USA

Last Friday I flew on American Airlines to Charlotte and then Pittsburgh. Upon landing, there was a delay, and a woman from China seated just ahead began viewing a series of images on an enormous iPhone.

Three of us in my cramped row couldn’t help but watch along with her. The images were all to do with young women singing karaoke, and young women waving from beauty pageant stages, until this woman swiped her finger once more. Now there popped out a photograph of two younger Chinese men posing their faces quite close to a camera, and in between them, there was the quite close-up smiling face of David Cameron.

Of course it was startling. But the remarkable aspect of the surprise was the face the British Prime Minister was making into the lens as he mugged aside the two visitors. It was a composition that was aptly described by the man to my left, who joined my visual eavesdropping, and then joined me in raising eyebrows. “Not a very Thatcherite face, is it?” he observed. Mr. Cameron’s face was making a look Americans would call “goofy.”

The spooky action of this little moment was that I had just put down the new Economist—the one about Bitcoin—and read about David Cameron and the “no” on Syrian airstrikes, and David Cameron and the “no” on the tax credit repeal, and Cameron and a Corbynsian Commons, and Cameron and uncooperative Tory MPs and Lords.

And I just then wondered whether the little photograph depicting David Cameron goofing for a camera with his two Chinese guests was circumstantial evidence of a holiday from gravitas, something which if established might go part of the way toward explaining the Prime Minister’s early autumn agenda setback.

Barack Obama, for his youth and avuncularity, invites queries into gravitas on a regular basis. Sometimes he seems to have it, sometimes it abandons him, or he leaves it back in his chair. By comparison, Angela Merkel seems never to be without her gravitas.

Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush each adopted a kind of thousand mile stare in lieu of cultivating gravitas. No one really defers to them, so much as people seek ways to avoid their pierced-eyed unpredictability.

Reagan and Thatcher had carts of it, of course, and Tony Blair and Bill Clinton were, most would argue, too smooth and too concerned with smoothness to allow the grit of it to build up in their personas.

Considering the question of American leadership, I find myself looking forward to higher concentrations of gravitas in the next President of the United States. We’ve been led by the young and the youthful for fifteen years now.

I’ll say one thing in favor of Hillary Clinton and gravitas. She’s got it. The other week she sloughed off a star chamber’s worth of both insinuative and accusative thrusts by D.C.’s Congressional Benghazi committee. When you are the Republican majority in the House, and you have limitless staffers to write your questions, and your questioners outnumber your accused 10 to 1, and you literally sit at a higher elevation and look down onto your target, and she still makes you look like naughty schoolboys aiming to hijack the local ice cream van instead of doing homework, your target is high in gravitas.

Poor Justin Trudeau. No gravitas there. Which is what got him elected this cycle, a la Obama, or John F. Kennedy. This will crop up as a topic for Canada the moment the new leader locks horns with the Russians over arctic sea routes.

To this matter, I am reminded that most U.S. Atlanticists were genuinely intrigued by the fact, before Corbyn, that all three facets of British popular politics—Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat—had top leaders who seemed and looked quite young. Taken together, David Cameron, Ed Milliband, and Nick Clegg seemed to us like three suave guys who might, first and foremost, remake The Three Musketeers. It seemed astonishing that they were put in charge of everything and also the opposition to everything. Whereas, Americans seem to prefer their boy or girl wonders to be counterweighted by a more grizzled opponent.

Jimmy Carter drew Ronald Reagan. Wonk-maverick Michael Dukakis challenged Bush I. Bill Clinton stuffed his youth and youthful indiscretion into a haversack and beat the elder Bush. Clinton then was challenged by the still-wounded WWII veteran Bob Dole. Grizzle city. Then Bush II faced off with Al Gore, and Americans had a historically difficult time electing one over the other. There was no distinction of gravitas between those two not-yet gnarled Baby Boomers; perhaps that was to blame. Obama’s shining youth and dreamy ideals were thrown into stark relief by the elderly-in-body John McCain and then the elderly-in-spirit Mitt Romney.

In this current campaign cycle, America’s POTUS race has young, zippy, low-gravitas challengers like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. And then there is a gradient of the quality running through the older candidates, ranging from ‘not applicable/crazy-like-Putin,’ to ‘this-is-a-serious-person-who-has-seen-the-grim-side,’ to the very nearly august.

Gravitas is something voters and the vox populi notice because it is ever at play in our own lives. Take the adage that begins “old age and cunning . . .” We know the value of gravitas from personal experience. We intuit that some of it is innate and that some of it arrives from ‘hard knock’ life experience.

In my off-duty life, I would take a picture with two visitors exactly as I saw that David Cameron did. Hamming it up. Ten times out of ten.

But in court, near court, or on a plane of existence that could connect my electrons to those of a courtroom—the place at which I am paid to have gravitas—I would by policy not allow myself that lowering of the foil. And I would rue it and simmer in a broth of self-loathing if I did.

As a lawyer, a stock in gravitas might be all that is staving off my replacement by a thinking robot. And, not being a Reagan, or a Thatcher, an Angela Merkel, or a Golda Meier, I must carefully retain whatever volume of gravitas I might have achieved.

Bad things could happen were I caught without any at precisely an inopportune moment. And I’m just a lawyer at the bar. Just another ‘Conversation Kenge.’ And here it is; if gravitas matters to my job, it matters for a world leader x1000.

I have it easy in this way. I’m not a world leader, and the slightest window into my psychology and intentions offered in a jovial moment is not under scrutiny. I suppose you could say that I know enough of gravitas to rely on it to inform my opinion over anything from my country’s next leader to the fighting shape of another world leader of import, and whither his prospects.

This is unfair and also completely fair, since gravitas is one of the complexly powerful red-green, stop-go, push-pull signals of biochemistry that exert force and outcome into human destinies, mine included.

Michael Cavendish is a trial lawyer living and working in Florida who is not ungrateful to be collaborating with Charon QC.

A fine poppy field

Dan Hull, an American lawyer and a good friend has published this poem on his blog

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.



Osama texts George W Bush…from 2006

I received a text message from a friend back in 2006 …

“Osama bin Laden sent George Bush a coded message to let him know he is still alive : 370HSSV-0773H

Bush is baffled. Condi Rice and her aides and even the FBI, CIA and NSA can’t decipher it. They ask Britain’s MI6 for help. Within a minute MI6 replies “Tell the President he’s holding the message upside down.”

Perth High Street and Perth Market

Three views of Perth High Street and a side street market on a wet Saturday.

And looking towards the River Tay


The River Tay

And the street market on a rainy Saturday  – an excellent street market


The photographs were taken at midday – not many people around.  Not many people on the streets ever – a stark contrast – a pleasing contrast – to London.

Great to be back in my own country after 40 years in London.  Know Perthshire well.  Went to Trinity College Glenalmond – a well known school –  just up the road, now known as Glenalmond College

I plan to live in Scotland for the rest of my life – winter in Perthshire and summers on The Isle of Arran on the West Coast.  There are benefits to renting.,