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Deja Vu
5 August, 2010  
From the mouths of craftsmen

Justinian’s hardcopy archive is a warehouse of gems … We shall remember them … Littlemore comes to grips with the language … VicAppeals unhappy without the two counsel rule … Languid Family judge hits herself in the face

From Justinian February 1999


Words are a beautiful thing, particularly in the mouth of a master, like Stuart Meredith Littlemore.

Stuie reminded us in his seminal work, The Media and Me (ABC Books, remaindered), that as a teenager there wasn’t a word he didn’t know (p.2), and that he got first-class honours in English in the Leaving Certificate of 1961 (p.12).

There are few who are more wondrous at holding our beautiful language tongue up to the light and letting it sparkle and dance.

Proceedings before Sydney Magistrate Lilian Horler drive the point home.

Littlemore acted for an accused on drug charges. The Crown prosecutor was probing a witness about the source of the marijuana.

Crown: Was there any conversation about sourcing it?

Littlemore: About putting sauce on it. I don’t know what sourcing it means.

Bench: Sort of like accessing.

Littlemore: Accessing – that’s a noun … Can we have it in plain English?

Bench: On come on Mr Littlemore.

Littlemore: No your Honour, your Worship. I don’t know what “sourcing” means.

Bench: Don’t you?

Littlemore: I really do not.

Bench: Finding a source for.

Littlemore: Mm?

Bench: Finding a source for.

Littlemore: Finding a source for. Finding, that’s as opposed to finding?

Bench: Pardon?

Littlemore: Is that as opposed to finding? If somebody finds something, that’s different from finding a source for something.

Bench: I suppose so. What are you asking – was there any discussion about where the marijuana had come from? Is that what you mean?

Crown: Yes, your Worship, but I still think the word “source” can be used appropriately in the context, with the greatest respect to my friend.

Littlemore: As in tomato.

Bench: Oh, come on.

In the interests of justice

The great tsunami of competition policy, legal profession reform and the dumping of restrictive bar practises has not quite washed over the unreconstructed types who inhabit the Victorian Court of Appeal.

I have unearthed some reasons of the court in a tax case where J.D. Phillips, Frank (Cab) Callaway and (Soapy) Stephen Charles are appalled by the modern trend in civil cases whereby senior counsel appear unaccompanied by juniors.

This growing evil has just got to stop and the traditional make-work schemes of the bar restored.

Callaway bristled:

“Mr Garratt QC appeared on his own to represent General Motors-Holden Automotive Ltd and the other appellants. I did not inquire as to the reasons for such a brief being offered or accepted and I make no criticism of counsel or his instructing solicitors…

More often (the interests of justice) are better served by briefing senior counsel with a junior, at a fee commensurate with the importance of the case and other factors…

Where two counsel are briefed the additional expense may be quite moderate, because the work can be shared and the two-thirds rule has been abolished.

The others fell on this luscious sentiment, like a couple of Greeks falling on someone’s neck.

Phillips said:

“It is ordinarily desirable, at least on the civil side, that two counsel be briefed in a case such as this…”

And Soapy added his buttery tones of support:

“I also wish to associate myself with what has been written by Callaway JA … on the question of briefing senior counsel with a junior.”

Bring back the glory days of the two counsel rule, when majestic silks could sweep unburdened along the boulevards while respectful juniors trundled along behind with the luggage.

Judicial bruising

It now emerges that Justice Mary-Jane Lawrie of the Family Court was just as much a Speedy Gonzales in the judgment writing department as Vince (Lenny) Bruce.

Languid Lawrie spread a four day child access hearing over six months and then spent another five months coming up with the decision, a process of 11 months as against 10 months for Lenny’s handling of the Maxwell murder case.

In the process Lawrie experimented by throwing a jacket at her face to see how much it hurt her chops.

A similar jacket had been hurled at the visage of the mother whose child was the subject of the access application.

“I was unable to cause any significant degree of discomfort even hitting the metal tags against my face,” the cement jowled judge explained.

Coming on top of the horribly unjust outcome courtesy of the Full Family Court in the Cedric Symonds costs appeal, Chief Justice Nicholson should take time off from shoving firecrackers up Decent Daryl Williams’ posterior, in order to concentrate on getting his rank and file into order.