About the Family Law Week blog

The Family Law Week Blog is a companion site to Family Law Week. It complements the news, cases and articles published on Family Law Week with additional comment and coverage of the wider aspects of family law.

The Blog is edited by Jacqui Gilliatt, of 4 Brick Court and Lucy Reed, of St Johns Chambers.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Blast from the past

At court today I was being told about a new Judge who was objecting to representatives in family cases adopting as their opening gambit - Good Morning Your Honour - about which they were rather puzzled. This is a Judge whose background seems to be in something other than family cases. I explained what one rather waspish Judge who objected to the same practice had once said to me - we are here for a court hearing, not a social occasion! Ever since which I have stuck religiously to 'May it please, Your Honour' so that it now trips off my tongue as if it is plain English and perfectly normal. There are many such traditions and idiosyncracies which family lawyers are a little less observant about than in other disciplines. I would not mind betting that this same Judge will not take kindly to the use of first names or casual references to mum, dad etc. Another Judge recently had to remind Counsel not to ask a leading question, although as he acknowledged this was a breach more honoured in the observance in our line of work. I remember being very puzzled by objections to bags being visible in court (I cannot even remember what is behind this) and being told to make sure the Judge is not left alone in the court room unless s/he has specifically given permission to the advocates to withdraw (which permission should never be requested - you should wait for the invitation). Barristers are also not supposed to shake hands with one another (because shaking hands is a way of showing you are not carrying a weapon and barristers can, of course, be trusted not to do so (HHJ Roger Connor who was recently in the headlines for wielding a knife in court is a former solicitor). A book I found of great assistance in understanding some of these curious traditions was Brothers in Law by Henry Cecil (a former County Court Judge who wrote a series of lovely books about the legal profession - this one was also made into a film) and the book is back in publication and can still be bought from Amazon. It is compulsory reading for all of my pupils.

1 comment:

oldfoureyes said...

This story is just too wonderful to ignore. For some reason we overestimate the value of certain institutions: the Royal Family, the honours system and the NHS (the envy of the world, so some still beleive). Our legal sysyem is another example, much praised (by natives) as being the best in the world. But it's got a long way to go before it can truely be considered so. More women as judges, more solicitors as judges and more judges from minority ethnic groups would be a start. So long as the vast majority of judges continue to be appointed from the small gene pool which dominates the white male middle classes (of which I am one), we'll always have too many judges who, will perceive a need to control the courtrooms, not simply by ensuring good manners and common decency are upheld, but also beyond that by insistng on a code of etiquette that has to be especially learned, and which if not followed will cause the judge to lose favour with the advocate.

Absolutely crazy. I agree that these stories are amusing, but they are also a terrible indictment of the lack of progress this country has made towards a true meritocracy.