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Monday, 11 June 2007

What Type of Judge Will I Get?

Ok, so this is the bit where I wave goodbye to career advancement. What the hell, it was only a dream anyway. However, I ought to make it clear that the only resemblence to any Judge living or dead which may be found below is entirely coincidental and/or exists only in the overfeverish imagination of those who think they may have found/be a template. These are archetypes: if you think it's Judge Z, it isn't. If you think it's you, then you may need to change...


The Honourable Mr Justice Important
You will recognise this one without trouble. Phrases like 'the dignity of the Court' tend to crop up on a regular basis. They are the person who, when approached by junior members of their former chambers who ask what to call them now that they are knighted, reply 'Judge'.
Lacking a sense of humour, they must be dealt with carefully. Unless attempts to deflate the judicial ego are deftly done, with rapier-like sharpness, all you are doing is buying yourself a long lecture on the discourtesy of counsel. On the other hand, rapier-like sharpness is unlikely to be detected by this model and you had better hope for a bright jury if you want that laugh.
Disadvantages. If they don't like your case you will be interrupted every time you make a good point. This is because no one is allowed to be more important in Court than them. If your opponent is a sycophant (or judges it politic to be so temporarily) then these interruptions will occur at wearyingingly regular intervals. Consequently, your case needs piloting with more than usual skill. If you can quote what they have said in a previous case, this will be accounted thorough and careful research. Equally, believing that importance is all, means that a superior court decision on all fours with your case is unlikely to be distinguished.
Advantages. Particularly in a jury trial this model can be encouraged to lose it in front of the jury. Complaints, threats to report you, accusations of unfair conduct, can all be incredibly useful if the jury are on your side. Also, gentle teasing will bring pleasure to both you and your opponent and, as this model tends to be rumbled by his bretheren, no one will really listen when he moans about you.
Suggested line. 'Your Lordship of course, immediately points to the most obvious difficulty in my case. Let me address that now.' Readers will note that a change in tone and particular emphasis on particular words can make this complimentary or insulting. '


HH Judge Machine QC
You feed in the problem, the brain ticks, retrieves and asseses the information and out comes the result. Neither engaged, nor bored, HH Judge M is the epitome of the Government's dream of what a Judge should be. When sentencing exercises are conducted HH Judge M sits right in the middle of the bracket. On the rare occasions when leave to appeal is granted, the Court refuse to intefere on the basis that they do not tinker with sentences.
HH Judge M is much sought after by his professional colleagues. They can be certain that when he describes the difference between an extended sentence and a longer than commensurate sentence he is absolutely accurate. That he neither blinks nor smiles is something they are prepared to ignore, although it is slightly odd. In front of the jury Judge M is capable of smiling, but this is clearly in response to some bit of internal circuitry sending a message saying 'the humanoids are stretching their oral opening and turning it up at the corner. Copy forthwith'.
Disadvantages. HH Judge M is unmoved by the human comedies and tragedies that make up the cases with which he must deal. Passion is dealt with by note taking. He treats triumph and disaster just the same - by failing to recognise either. Your skills are irrelevant. There is a right answer and your case either possesses it or it does not. Prison overcrowding is not his problem. Nor is the mental hospital's decision to release the psychopath because he is not suffering from a treatable condition.
Advantages. Your skills are irrelevant. This might be good news. You need not research the law because HH Judge M already knows it. He is not interested in whether you do - it simply exists. Even if your ignorance is revealed HH Judge M will never mention it to his colleagues, because he is incapable of a sufficient degree of human interaction. Your client will recognise that you could do nothing to influence the result. He may conclude that he did not require you, but the brief fee will already be yours.
Suggested line. Would your Honour like me to pass up my computer, which has the relevant test set up as a stand alone programme?


Mr Recorder Energetic
Youthful (in his mind anyway) and keen, this model is determined to make his mark. He has bought into the whole Civil/Criminal Procedure Rules mindset and is determined to manage the case, the evidence, counsel and - if possible - the result. Bouncing onto the Bench with a cheery 'Good Morning' (no stuffy old-fashioned bowing for him) he proceeds to call on the first case with what he conceives to be business-like speed.
'Throughput' and 'efficiency' are his buzzwords - and he has buzzwords. The maximum amount of justice in the minimum amount of time. Possibly reflecting his approach in practice, the effect on a witness of a slow build up followed by some difficult questions is simply lost on him. Time limits are issued and applied to every possible matter. Challenged he at first displays imperturbable good nature - 'Come now Mr X; surely the CPR says...'. But if pressed he can pass from tetchy to hostile in the blink of an eye. The key is to understand that this model believes that lack of talent can be overcome by a slavish adherence to the money saving mantras of the Ministry of Justice. Look upon his works, you mighty, and despair.
Disadvantages. So keen that he can be difficult to take before midday or a couple of drinks - for many of the barristers before him this is the same time. Justice is less important than procedure. Worse, he believes that justice is the same thing as procedure. He will almost certainly be younger than you - curiously this applies whatever your age. Normally what you do with bouncy things is kick them - and you will feel the same about this - not being able to do it may bring forward the fatal heart attack.
Advantages. Childishly easy to manipulate - know the CPR and he'll eat out of your palm. Difficult to insult - either through certitude or a skin like a rhino - so clutching your head and audibly muttering 'Oh Lord' to vent your feelings will not register. Can be successfully diverted to ordering separate trials of all issues to your financial benefit. Often a good source of anecdote.
Suggested line. As your Honour sees, a proper application of CPR 24.12.3(i)(a)(bb)(iv) indicates that the issue must be taken at PCMH supported by a skeleton and highlighted copies of all authorities... I'm sorry Your Honour; that sounded like a groan of sexual satisfaction.


HH Judge Old-Timer QC
The precise opposite of the previous model, this Judge believes that justice stopped in about 1999. Actually he has a point, but HHJ O-T makes it too often and too obviously. Will appear to be working extremely hard, only to reveal that he has been constructing an example which means that he has to send someone to prison for putting their tongue out at a policewoman. That this is totally irrelevant is unimportant to him. Victor Meldrew is his role model.
Consequently, you need to remember the old terminology. Forget PCMH and revert to PDH - or better still PTR. Refer him to the Probation Report, not the PSR. Use lots of Latin and do not translate it - to HHJ O-T this is a bond simultaneously flattering and cosy. This model will actually try and do what is right, rather that what the statute says. It is your job to ensure that what he does is just about acceptable within the Act. This is a task equivalent to trying to steer a Bull through a small gap in a hedge when the gap is covered with a bright red cloth.
Possibly prone to be the teensiest bit self-regarding HHJ O-T has a bad habit of saying things that are not simply non P-C but are actively offensive. In his mind, rape still has something to do with the length of the skirt. He may not say so - but you know he thinks so, and he knows you know he thinks so. Consequently, some conversations take place in code.
Disadvantages. Prone to miss the statutory/procedure rules test by miles - mainly due to not aiming at it. Thus your fantastic result can turn to ashes in the Court of Appeal. Distressing habit of trying to discover the truth can lead to counsel actually having to think. Lecture on iniquity of government - amusing on the first occasion - can be head-clutchingly boring the 35th time. Tentative expression of a view that, for example, making it clear that all legal representatives owe an overriding duty to litigate sensibly, will lead to judicial explosion because, for HHJ O-T, anything post 1999 is appalling.
Advantages. Will respond to your ability (or not). Will talk during the case thus enabling you to know, and react to, how he is thinking. Is usually fair and wants to do the right thing. Most post 1999 criminal legislation is badly drafted and dreadful, so not much of a problem if this model says so. If your oppo is an HCA you start with a huge advantage. As his views can be anticipated with confidence you can flatter in secure conditions. If your oppo does this too, the trial transcript can read like a love-in.
Suggested line. Your Honour may think it fortunate that neither the draftsman nor the Rules Committee have yet addressed this issue, as a consequence of which the decision is entirely in your Honour's discretion. NB: this will be the reality whether you say it or not.


HH Judge Bored
When Her Honour was the only woman in Chambers and every floor had a glass ceiling, she dreamed of this moment. Now, 3 years in, the next 17 years spread out before her like an endless vista of cabbage fields - boring, uninspiring, smelly and with the consequences of contact being wholly appalling. The grass, to coin a phrase, was yellower: as is HH's eye when she contemplates those lucky bastards who stayed at the Bar.
Her reaction takes two forms. A barely concealed (and in some cases unconcealed) contempt for the work being put in front of her and the manner of its performance. And a volunteering for every single committee that exists. HHJ Bored is on the Court User committee; the Judicial Studies Board, the Parole Board, the local Liason Probation Committee. She is the official judicial delegate to the Court of the University. The point of all this is that each meeting counts as a sitting day - thus it is that HHJ Bored manages to sit only 20 weeks a year, which is a relief to all concerned.
Every so often this model gets a case which interests her. At such moments she becomes pleasant, helpful and appreciative of counsels' efforts. When you go back to the Robing Room and say how easy you found her, no one will believe you. Worse people may believe there is some sort of attraction there and your social career will be over. This may be why HHJ Bored never gets a good press. Stories about her are legion and all are unflattering. She is the person who, told that all that was left in her list was the Mareva Injunction told the clerk to give her 5 minutes to look at the papers and then show Mr and Mrs Mareva in.
Disadvantages. However hard you try it will not be good enough. There is a real risk that, if you are not on top of your game, HHJ Bored will spend her time working out ways to make your life miserable. Often a first cousin of Important J (see above), saying what you want to say might make things worse. HHJ Bored once said, 'The last time I heard a submission so dishonest it came from the lips of the Iraqi Minister of Information.' No adjustment is made for age or experience and consequently the young tend to suffer disproportionately. Bizzarely, perhaps because of all the Committees, this model may actually have influence.
Advantages. Your client will understand that the result was beyond your influence and may actually help you feel better. Your oppo will get it as badly as you - HH has no favourites. There can be a certain perverse satisfaction in boring this model further. The Robing Room will be uniformly sympathetic, and grateful - if you are before this model then they are not. Because this model tends to think they know it all, there are occasions where the Court of Appeal can be invited to make the most embarrassing of all findings; namely that the Judge failed to listen to the evidence. This is hugely satisfying.
Suggested line. We will need to go through all 1,000 pages with all 20 witnesses. Medic!


HH Judge Near-Retirement
After 20 years, this model can see retirement on the near horizon. Demob happy doesn't begin to describe his mood, but there is also an abiding fear - either of immediate senility as a result of having nothing to do, or due to the prospect of the next 15 years in the night and day company of Mrs N-R who he vaguely remembers talking to before he acquired his busy practice but who, since then, has been the housekeeper.
Consequently, every case is marked by a positively abandoned attitude to time estimates, a need to investigate every issue at its most intellectual level, and a wish to tease counsel. Rumours of HH Judge N-R walking down the judicial corridor saying to his usher, 'I really got them going there didn't I?' are likely to be true.
Disadvantages. Given that the focus of the case is likely to be deliberately lost, you may well be driven to distraction. Fundamentally kind-hearted (or made so by the immanent retirement) HH Judge N-R will not actually make you return the case that starts 10 days after the case he is trying is supposed to finish - he will merely adjourn you part heard 6 or 7 times. By the 5th day on which the case has overrun you have succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome and are unwilling to disappoint him by failing to argue each trivial point.
Advantages. The refreshers are good. You don't actually have to pay attention to the case, as the result will have been decided before HH Judge N-R sat on the first day. If you are laid-back or not very busy and your opponent is neither then the wind-up opportunities are unparalleled. There is always the chance that the Judge will reward performance rather than technical merit.
Suggested line. This 5 day case now having concluded, may I express the wish that your Honour's retirement is spent as happily as I have spent the last 7 weeks.

3 comments:

Troubled barrister said...

I think a few more are apt:

DJ Mad

HHJ Adjournment

LJ Flasher

Simon Myerson said...

I'll do the first two - and you can do the last one! He's difficult to pin down - a sort of now you see him, now you don't type deal.

teflon said...

The trouble with Judge Machine he looks at the sky..
He doesn't ask why, he just finds it a sky

The trouble with Jodge Bored, he looks at counsel
And he doesn't know who he is, sitting, staring at counsel

And Judge N-R's memories are too amorphous and proud
While those Adjourning Judges are just alcoholic

The trouble with Recorder Es, they're wrapped up in govt wiles,
And it's all too personal, they're in love with their own guile
They're like illegal aliens trying to make an extra buck
They're driving gypsy cabs but they're thinking like a truck

Me - I like the old boy downtown Judges who spray paint courts with words
I like their lack of training, their primitive technique
I think sometimes it hurts you when you stay too long in committees
I think sometimes it hurts you when you're afraid to be
called a fool

(big nod Cale/Reed)