It is always dangerous for old fogies to dive in on today’s quarrels, so I will merely dip a toe. The subject is rude judges who undermine young advocates’ confidence to the extent they are reduced to tears and carry the memory with them for days or weeks.
First, just what has the judge said which is so damaging to the spirit? Is it defined in a similar way to racial abuse? Please may we have examples?
I also thought that, with judicial training, the days of rude judges such as Goddard and Melford Stevenson were long past. And, in any event, complaints can now be made about them to a lord chancellor who would actually listen.
Second, are there not heads of chambers to protect and help younger members? I know it is going back to the days of ‘when I was young’ but there used to be a Queens Bench master who, when he was displeased with an application, would push the papers on to the floor so that the unfortunate clerk had to scrabble about the feet of the next applicant to retrieve them.
I also think if one can forget one’s humiliation inside 10 days then that is fortunate. I still carry some of my mistakes (and comments made about them) after 50 years. It was all part of a learning process.
Looking back, I think the only magistrate with whom I had serious trouble in my early days was Neil ‘Mick’ McElligott who sat at Old Street. I never seemed to get any sort of change out of him. Since there was no head of chambers to whom I could whimper and my employer had not set foot in any sort of court in a decade or more, I grumbled to the barrister Wilfrid Fordham about what I considered my unnecessarily rough treatment.
The next time I was before McElligott, he adjourned after half an hour and the usher said I was to go to his room. ‘This time I haven’t even opened my mouth,’ I thought. ‘Now Morton,’ said McElligott, ‘what’s this Wilfrid says about me not liking you? It’s your clients I don’t like. Sit down and have a cup of tea.’
Maybe a full court press might solve things. Have it out with him or her – face to face.
James Morton is a writer and former criminal defence solicitor