Know your judge

I am against TheBusker this week in a three day personal injury case in which we are arguing both over liability and also the value of the claim. TheBusker is defending the claim and of course if he wins on liability all other arguments fall away. My solicitor had called the case a ‘dead cert’ on liability which is never a good sign. ‘Can’t lose, BabyB. It’s our version against theirs and we’re the ones with the independent witness to trump all.’ Well, I knew better than that when it comes to TheBusker but I was at least determined to foil his usual courtroom tactics.

First off, TheBusker stood up and said, ‘Your Honour, might it be useful for us to decide the issue of liability as a preliminary issue?’ In itself a helpful suggestion you might think, were it not for the sting in the tail, ‘After all, if you’re with us on that, all the other complicated issues fall away.’ The judge nodded approvingly and I was already snookered, unable to object without seeming to be posturing for some tactical advantage in some way.

The next thing that happened took me by complete surprise. By way of background, most baby barristers are in the habit of using toy cars to help witnesses describe the accident and those looking for an angle tend to offer the toy Ferrari to the other side’s witness and a nice, safe, responsible Mercedes or Volvo to their own witness. Meant to work on the judge’s mind and all.

But this time around TheBusker had mentioned beforehand that I might want to watch it with the toy cars. Ever sensitive to his tactics I decided that this was some sort of bluff and so when it came to cross-examination of his witness I made a big song and dance of his witness taking the ‘speedy little number’. As soon as I did so, I was hit with the full force of the judge’s temper.

‘Mr BabyBarista, I am well aware that some members of the junior bar think the judiciary so naive that they can influence them through some sort of subliminal messages to do with the toy cars. However, I think you ought to know that not only do I find that implication offensive to the judicial office itself but I think perhaps it’s only fair to tell you that I myself drive a…’

He gave a theatrical pause before finishing with, you guessed it: ‘…a Ferrari.’

Ouch. TheBusker smiled and raised a sympathetic eyebrow. The trial continues tomorrow.

BabyBarista is a fictional account of a junior barrister practising at the English Bar, written by barrister and writer Tim Kevan. For more information and to read posts from the last few years visit babybarista.com. Cartoons by Alex Williams, author of 101 Ways to Leave the Law.

March 10, 2015 ¡ Tim Kevan ¡ One Comment
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Monday morning with Alex Williams’ cartoons

qccartoon
This cartoon is by Alex Williams who draws the Queen’s Counsel cartoons for The Times and in numerous books including The Queen’s Counsel Lawyer’s Omnibus. He offers almost all of his cartoons for sale at ÂŁ120 for originals and ÂŁ40 for copies and they can be obtained from this email info@qccartoon.com.

March 9, 2015 ¡ Tim Kevan ¡ Comments Closed
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How to win a hopeless case

I’ve often heard TheBusker chuckle about the many ways to win even the most hopeless of cases. ‘Everything’s winnable once you have a real, living and above all fallible judge sitting in front of you. Maybe you’ll start off chatting about the weather or a particular detail relevant only to him such as his mother’s health or son’s prospering career as a solicitor. But even if the usual lines of attack fail, you should always, and I mean always, have a scales of justice speech up your sleeve. Get that right and it’ll never fail.’

Yet despite the speech having entered the realms of legend, I still haven’t yet experienced it first hand. Well, until last week at least when closing speeches were due on the liability issue in the case I was fighting against him. So with this in mind, you’ll understand why a shiver went down my spine when TheBusker stood up and said,
‘Your Honour, the scales of justice…’

No! Not the scales of justice! Anything but that…please! I stood up to object almost as some kind of Pavlovian reaction. TheBusker gave me a kindly smile and sat down to allow me speak. Which exposed the fact that in reality I had no grounds for stopping him other than stamping my foot and moaning ‘it’s just not fair’. He then stood up to resume his speech.

‘Your Honour, the scales of justice are a finely balanced instrument which have been used down the ages to settle disputes both great and indeed small. A constant in our lives which for most of our lives we simply take for granted. But very occasionally one is faced with an extraordinary decision where then scales are so finely balanced as not to be able to determine whether they are falling down on one side or the other. At those rare times it takes but…’

He theatrically dipped his hand into his suit pocket and as if from nowhere produced…

‘…a small feather to tip the scales one way or the other. Just the very smallest thing to make the difference between one side’s case and the other. Your Honour, this is one such rare cases in which the scales are indeed balanced. We say one thing and the other side say the other but in reality we are equally matched.’

His voice dropped as he continued.

‘Thankfully Your Honour, when the cases are indeed evenly matched then all we ever have to fall back on is the burden of proof and that lies today with the Claimant. Sadly for him, Your Honour, in the absence of that little feather…’ with which he dropped his own one to the ground, ‘the case must be dismissed.’

Well, it was obvious to us all that the judge was utterly charmed by the performance. After that no amount of my trying to tell him that our independent witness counted for enough feathers to fill a whole courtroom was ever going to change his mind.

BabyBarista is a fictional account of a junior barrister practising at the English Bar, written by barrister and writer Tim Kevan. For more information and to read posts from the last few years visit babybarista.com. Cartoons by Alex Williams, author of 101 Ways to Leave the Law.

March 3, 2015 ¡ Tim Kevan ¡ No Comments
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‘Proof of Death’ by thriller-writer and barrister Chris Pearson

Lawyer Richard Troy doesn’t do mathematics. But when he accepts Chechen number theorist Aslan Ivanov as a client, he realises that life, love and death are all part of the same equation. Aslan possesses a proof of the Riemann Hypothesis – a mathematical proposition that has defied academics for 150 years. With the power to unlock public key encryption across the internet, blowing open all online financial transactions in the process, the proof is priceless. Aslan’s friend, Anthony Heims, Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, secretly envies Aslan for it. American banker Clayton Ruck will pay anything to have it. Siberian assassin Colonel Vladimir Tutov will stop at nothing to get it. Forced to defend much more than Aslan’s legal rights, Troy becomes a reluctant number in Ruck’s and Tutov’s deadly calculations. The more Troy learns of Aslan’s story, the further he strays from his role as a lawyer. Suddenly, Troy is no longer crossing swords with courtroom opponents. Now the weapons are real, his adversaries merciless. And no judge will step in to save him from slaughter.” Available on Kindle from Amazon.

March 2, 2015 ¡ Tim Kevan ¡ Comments Closed
Posted in: books

Monday morning with Alex Williams’ cartoons

qccartoon
This cartoon is by Alex Williams who draws the Queen’s Counsel cartoons for The Times and in numerous books including The Queen’s Counsel Lawyer’s Omnibus. He offers almost all of his cartoons for sale at ÂŁ120 for originals and ÂŁ40 for copies and they can be obtained from this email info@qccartoon.com.

March 2, 2015 ¡ Tim Kevan ¡ Comments Closed
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Weekend video: Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg Q&A

February 28, 2015 ¡ Tim Kevan ¡ Comments Closed
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Book recommendation: The Law Machine by Marcel Berlins

Marcel Berlins, a former practising lawyer, has written several books and presented a number of television series, including The Law Machine. He presents ‘Law in Action’ on BBC Radio 4 and writes a weekly legal column in the Guardian. Clare Dyer, asolicitor, is legal correspondent of the Guardian and the British Medical Journal.

Available from Amazon.

February 25, 2015 ¡ Tim Kevan ¡ Comments Closed
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Simples

‘Nothing’s ever simple any longer.’ It was OldSmoothie lamenting once again. ‘The bigger picture’s been lost forever and we’re all just buried in details and small print.’

‘And whose fault do you think that is?’ asked BusyBody.

‘Of course, it’s got nothing to do with lawyers,’ added UpTights.

‘Clever commercial lawyers who draft terms and conditions which allow companies to do over the little man, maybe,’ he replied. ‘But certainly not us good old-fashioned common lawyers.’

‘Oh, listen to the champion of the little man,’ smiled TheVamp.

‘I like to think I have my moments,’ said OldSmoothie.

‘And of course you’d never take a technical pleading point or kick a case out that had missed limitation?’ said BusyBody.

‘That’s completely different. That’s just our job,’ OldSmoothie replied. ‘We do what we’re instructed to do.’

‘If anything, surely we should be celebrating the modern world’s obsession with detail?’ said TheBusker. ‘I mean, if it wasn’t for solicitors instructing us to take technical points we’d all be out of work.’

Which silenced OldSmoothie for the rest of tea.

BabyBarista is a fictional account of a junior barrister practising at the English Bar, written by barrister and writer Tim Kevan. For more information and to read posts from the last few years visit babybarista.com. Cartoons by Alex Williams, author of 101 Ways to Leave the Law.

February 24, 2015 ¡ Tim Kevan ¡ No Comments
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Monday morning with Alex Williams’ cartoons

qccartoon
This cartoon is by Alex Williams who draws the Queen’s Counsel cartoons for The Times and in numerous books including The Queen’s Counsel Lawyer’s Omnibus. He offers almost all of his cartoons for sale at ÂŁ120 for originals and ÂŁ40 for copies and they can be obtained from this email info@qccartoon.com.

February 23, 2015 ¡ Tim Kevan ¡ Comments Closed
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Weekend video: Why you will fail to have a great career – Larry Smith

February 21, 2015 ¡ Tim Kevan ¡ Comments Closed
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