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Posts Tagged ‘law’

Social Media As Evidence

Most often experienced in family law in all its excruciating banality in the form of facebook mudslinging between exes, this post from Justin McShane reminds us that what we post online can be incriminating in oh so many ways. Be careful what you post. It may just come back to haunt you…Being tagged by a friend in a compromising photo could lead to you being tagged in an altogether more physical sense…

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Legal Costs

Short piece on ‘Today’ on Tues morning about costs in civil cases. I switched on as a clip of Lord Justice Judge opining about the state of civil justice was part way through. Evan Davis moved onto an interview with Bridget Prentice. Oh goody, I thought as I drove to court, something relevant to my line of work and NOT about banks. What struck me though was the complete failure of the piece to distinguish between court fees and legal costs. Unusually for Evan, who is pretty much always on the ball and whose faux naive questions make me chuckle, it sounded as if Evan himself had no appreciation of the distinction between legal costs and court fees (which are piffling in comparison to legal costs, at least unless you are a local authority issuing care proceedings). This was made worse by the fact that Bridget Prentice, in response to a question about ‘legal costs’, asserted that a low income claimant would know prior to issue that they would be able to be protected against paying these. It was apparent to a lawyer that she was talking about remission of court issue fees on a means tested basis but non-lawyers could have been forgiven for thinking that there was no risk of a costs order being made against a low income claimant, which of course is very much NOT accurate. Not helpful.

Did anyone else listen to this? Was it as confusing as I thought it was, or was I simply too distracted by the traffic on the M5 to listen properly to what was being said?

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The Guardian has lost in it’s attempt to secure details of the identities of Judges found guilty of misconduct or who have been reprimanded. I think maybe I’m missing something because my response to this was a bemused ‘hunh?’.

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The Information Tribunal making the decision apparently cited the example of a very senior judge who was reprimanded by the LCJ and said that if barristers had known about the behaviour which had led to the reprimand, they would have used the information to try and get an adjournment of the hearings or ‘in some cases an application that the judge in question not hear the particular case’. No doubt they would. The Tribunal goes on to say that ‘this clearly has adverse implications for the public and for the administration of justice generally’. Riiiigggghhhht.

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No, I’m not getting it. As far as I can see it all rather begs the question ‘Why the hell shouldn’t counsel be able to ask a judge to recuse himself if he has engaged in relevant misconduct?’, and I rather think that the decision to keep such matters secret when they plainly hold a legitimate public interest is far more likely to have adverse implications for the public and for the administration of justice than the suppression of such information simply in order to avoid administrative inconvenience or embarrassment. The new fashion for transparency and the principle of open justice clearly only goes so far.

Or am I getting this wrong?

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Top 100 Most Pointless Lists

The Times has published a list of the top 100 ‘most powerful lawyers’ here. What a stupidly vague and pointless piece of space filling that was. Must have been a slow legal news day or something. It’s not even what it purports to be, since famous / notorious / good at working the media / working in the field of human rights do not necessarily equate with ‘powerful’. It’s very sloppy and I’m not the only one to notice. Rather than bleat on I’m going to suggest you read the comments on the online article, which are rather more entertaining and informative than the list itself.

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Beta That

@kevinokeefe has been tweeting about this new tool: www.lexisweb.com – currently in beta and hence free, for the time being. Have yet to seriously play with it but it is another weapon in the arsenal of information management / search tools.

this however is not the primary focus of blogging discussion about the ‘BIG, BAD’ Lexis Nexis at present as can be seen from the link.

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open justice

The Guardian reports that a newspaper is appealing a decision to allow the identity of a man convicted of child pornography offences to remain anonymous in order to protect his daughters from possible bullying. The Court of Appeal will consider this matter, unusually with a five Judge panel – no doubt because of the public interest in the case and the difficult and competing human rights points which arise (right to privacy v right to free speech). In family cases the need to protect the children involved is one of the primary reasons for the cases not being made public. No doubt similar concerns swayed the Judge in this case, albeit in a very different context. The children in this criminal case are neither the victims of the offence nor the subjects of the case. I can see the arguments for protecting these children from a risk of harm but I’m not sure that it outweighs the need to do justice in public, particularly where the offence involves actual and serious harm to other children. What would be the distinction between this and the need to protect an offender’s vulnerable elderly mother (or even his not-so-vulnerable partner) from the stigma of being associated in her community with an offender of this type? The families of offenders have to deal with this all the time – it must be extremely difficult -I think this case sets a dangerous precedent. There is a risk of eroding the principle of open justice to the point of meaninglessness.

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i’m going to eat worms

Call me naive but I hadn’t appreciated just how many people hate lawyers. more specifically barristers. More specifically family barristers. I mean I knew we weren’t all that popular (not helped by stupid headlines about ‘fat cat legal aid lawyers’ etc). And I knew a lot of people (most of my friends included) are pretty clueless about what we do (my friends imagine me peppering every sentence with M’Lud and being involved in all sorts of high drama in the courtroom, producing last minute killer evidence from a secret compartment in my bra and asking brilliant questions that instantaneously cause the baddy (only baddies) to break down in a pool of tears and confess all). There are few who understand us, and that was part of the reason for starting this blog.

As far as I can tell most of my clients think I’m alright. They are often frustrated with the system and some expect miracles (which I’m not always able to perform), but I don’t leave court every day thinking the world hates me. I leave court most days thinking I’ve done the best I could do, and on a really good day I leave court thinking I’ve really made a difference.

But I’m surprised at how much the responses to some of the posts on this blog unsettle me. If the people who have posted comments on this blog are representative then the bar has a serious image problem. And the family bar has a catastrophe on its hands. How can the public perception of us be so very different from the world I inhabit every day, where people try really hard to patch up other people’s often unfixable problems and to get families working again? Where has it gone wrong?

I think its quite likely that the posts I’ve got are not truly representative of the public’s view of us. That is to say, those with strong negative views are far more likely to be bothered to comment on a blog like this than those who have no axe to grind. The unhappiest are often the loudest. But I can’t ignore the fact that there are enough of ’em out there who feel strongly enough to pebble dash this blog with invective to warrant some serious thought.

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