Flying judges

Reading Hugo Young’s Papers one is reminded how much our approach to organising ourselves has changed in recent decades. Back in 1980, when Lord Lane took over as Lord Chief Justice there was a backlog of 600 criminal cases, or two years’ worth. Obviously unacceptable. To rectify matters he put in Sir John Donaldson (subsequently Master of the Rolls).

Sir John’s first action:

As judges, we would wander, as usual, to the door of the court, but then enter it with great and unaccustomed briskness and sit down instantly and say with great energy, “Yes, Mr so-and-so”. Oddly, this accelerated things immensely.

It’s difficult to imagine something so basic being recommended by the clever management consultants who nowadays get to work on this sort of problem. I wonder what such a recommendation might look like on a PowerPoint slide?

In any event, if it did make it, I feel sure it would be supported by a two-day residential workshop on how one achieves best-practice in bursting through doors with great and unaccustomed briskness, sitting down instantly and bellowing.

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8 thoughts on “Flying judges

    November 12, 2010 at 13:59

    Ah, whatever happened to common sense, eh?

    I can definitely see that tactic working. It’s amazing what a bit of briskness can do. I find that if I write a list of everything I need to do first thing, and attack it with gusto one item at a time, I can do what seems like a week’s work in a morning, leaving me free to doss about on the internet.

    (PS. Love the caption when hover over the pic).

  2. Gaw
    November 12, 2010 at 15:34

    The problem with common sense is that it very often comes free.

    I too love a spell of expeditiousness. Easy satisfaction.

    Banished To A Pompous Land
    November 12, 2010 at 18:12

    Whatever happened to common sense? Well Gramsci did for that innit? That’s Ideological Hegemony that is!

  4. Worm
    November 12, 2010 at 20:07

    Best way to get things done in a meeting- set a 15 or 30 min time limit then stick to it rigidly!

    November 13, 2010 at 11:45

    For reasons I can’t pin down, modern judges tend to be patient to a fault and do not interrupt or cut off lawyers the way their forebearers did. Perhaps it’s because appeal courts have slapped too many judicial hands, perhaps it’s the decline of the art of rhetoric, perhaps because modern law has become so loosy-goosy about “problem-solving” and judicial discretion as opposed to applying the law, or perhaps it’s simply a decline in alcohol-fueled crankiness, but whatever the reason, modern court proceedings are unnecessarily long and deferential to long-winded, repetitive lawyers. Many times I have struggled to stay respectful during opposing counsel’s interminable submissions and dreamed of the old-style judge with the courage to growl: “Mr Jones, I believe I am now seized of your argument.”.

    I would love to be invited to a judicial workshop on court efficiency and tell them they could solve the problem if they would just man up.

  6. Gaw
    November 13, 2010 at 12:42

    Peter, I note that Sir John was a WW2 veteran and cut his teeth as an officer. I suspect his emphasis on leading by example and his belief in the power of demonstration may have been a consequence. I also imagine he had no requirement to ‘man up’! Are you a barrister?

    Gadjo Dilo
    November 14, 2010 at 06:33

    Peter, I too am interested to know what your personal involvement in this might be! Common sense, alcohol-fuelled crankiness, the old Louis X!V syrup and some really arcane swearing – I’d accept any judgement passed down by a bloke like that.

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