Who knew? “Scandalising the court” whatever that may be, may be no longer. The Law Commission are consulting about it (here).
The consultation document, which I’ve scanned tonight, is really interesting reading (not quite interesting enough for me to finish it on a Friday night mind you), but my instinctive reaction is that the judiciary / court system should be as much subject to scrutiny, challenge and ridicule as any other institution. I don’t buy any argument for special protection, the judiciary are big enough and ugly enough to look after themselves (although I suppose they are in a position from which it is difficult to defend themselves – such as for example Coleridge J, who was subject to both criticism and complaint for comments made in connection with his Marriage Foundation, but since a complaint is pending, can’t publicly respond.
By serendipitous coincidence, my West Virginian husband has just sent me a link to a gem of a video which serves as a reminder that the state of justice in this jurisdiction could me so much worse. The article and clip in the Huff Post relate to a divorce finance hearing in a local court in West Virginia, in the course of which the judge rather loses his cool (understatement of the year – don’t turn your volume up too high). I did once spend a day in a West Virginian court, and I have to say it was pretty novel, but nothing quite as astonishing as in this video clip. You might recognise the universal Litigant in Person character with his trademark plastic bag, but the judicial style and process (ahem) is scarcely recognisable in comparison to our own – and the legal representative for the wife seems (bizarrely) to barely respond to the conduct of the judge (I’d have been delicately suggesting recusal to avoid an appeal but perhaps I shouldn’t apply my experience to what is evidently a very different legal system). I especially like the theatrical entry and exit of what I think is the local Sheriff. Interesting to note that the video recordings of such proceedings are apparently accessible and available for publication but that, according to the accompanying article, the judge is protected from suit even if not from criticism. NB Video clip is long – but worth watching the whole thing.