Friday, 19 January 2007

Duty to inform

Yesterday was amusing. A draft judgment arrived yesterday for corrections. I read through it for The Master and something lurched from the back of my mind to the front. I was at a seminar a few weeks ago conducted by another member of Chambers in which an EC Regulation had been mentioned. This Regulation allegedly encourages the direct hearing of the voice of the child in court in various types of family law proceedings (paragraph 19 of the preamble to EC Regulation No 2201/2003 if you are interested).

The point would have been very much against The Master's case and it wouldn't affect the outcome either, but I thought I'd mention it to The Master. He initially thought it did not matter and in any event was it was too late. He thought about it a bit more and decided to consult the head of chambers. Everything then went a bit berserk, as he thought we had a duty to inform the court and all the other parties. We spent the next two hours trying to get hold of everyone and writing and re-writing a very short email to the court lawyer explaining the situation and potential relevance of the Regulation, without actually making any submissions.

I think The Master was seeing his name in lights again, hoping to be recalled to court to make further submissions on what might be a cutting edge piece of family law. And also get paid for a further higher court appearance, no doubt.

The member of chambers who had conducted the seminar had been in Croydon, but he returned early in the afternoon and we collared him to try and extract more information. I mentioned to The Master beforehand that I have often in the past found barristers like to keep their pet legal arguments close to their chests, presumably so that they can run the arguments themselves, and asked whether information was shared more easily inside a set of chambers. He thought it wouldn't be a problem.

Well, this bloke couldn't have been less helpful. He thought there might be some European authorities but couldn't say more, and he couldn't remember much about the Innsbruck conference at which he had acquired this gem of knowledge without looking at the conference papers, which he didn't offer to do. In some ways I can't blame him. The Master was basically muscling in on his intellectual territory, and he had travelled to Innsbruck to acquire the knowledge on which it was based.

In any event, after all this excitement, one of the judges emailed The Master to say he was very well aware of the Regulation and didn't think it could make any conceivable difference to the judgments.

In contrast, so far today I've just spent the morning honing my photocopying skills on a bundle I had to fetch from and return to another set of chambers at the other end of Chancery Lane. And then I re-arranged the authorities index into chronological order. It's been a fun morning. This afternoon I've persuaded The Master to give me some time to myself so that I can do a job someone's asked me to take on: checking their new immigration law textbook for them for legal correctness.

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