The Trial – real lawyers and jury on BBC

People in the UK can see this 5-part serial on iPlayer – spoilers ahead.

Last week the BBC put on a program showing a fictitious murder trial but with real barristers, judge, court clerk and expert witnesses and with a jury who were randomly chosen members of the public. It reminded me of Marcel Berlin’s The Law Machine, which I watched ad nauseam with my students years ago.

The first episode I watched I thought not only the defendant and witnesses, but also the jury were actors. Not so! But those jurors were fixated on calling each others’ remarks sexist – the case involved a man charged with murdering his estranged but not quite estranged wife. For example, the relatively coherent older woman juror with experience of social services began to describe the way ‘an abusive man’ may appear amenable at first but gradually becomes domineering and controlling. She was immediately shouted down by two or three male jurors as ‘sexist’. Now this was boring if it was actors, but if it was ‘real’ people it made me worry about how one could speak about abuse and still be heard. However, I have now come to the conclusion that the jury’s remarks were tightly edited and we cannot decide from hearing a short exchange what they were like over several hours. Just like the Big Brother house and other reality TV products, you can’t trust it.

If one wanted to see the law in action, I would strongly recommend the way the barristers appeared. I particularly enjoyed the bit of bickering between them: it seemed authentic and matched my own memories.

It was odd that the judge’s closing speech was not given.

And then, in the last programme, at great length, the ‘true story’ was shown and we saw that the defendant really did kill his wife. I think it was a massive mistake to show what really happened. And above all, the way the jury’s individual votes were shown, showing that it was the women who voted guilty, and the details on how much domestic violence is not reported. An important issue, but we were to be manipulated.

This case should have ended in a not guilty verdict, not guilty for lack of evidence, but it resulted in a hung jury. Of course the jurors knew they were on TV, and that might have influenced their demeanour.

The whole thing has been well taken apart by The Secret Barrister: In forgetting our fundamental principles of justice, The Trial’s fascinating run fell down at the last:

Taking the above together, the only possible interpretation of the editorial line is: “This jury should have convicted. They didn’t, ergo they failed. What does this tell us about juries? (Clue: Maybe it’s sexism.)”

Which would be fine, had that been the premise of the programme. But it wasn’t. At least, not as far as we’d been led to believe. It was billed – accurately – as a groundbreaking docu-drama in which we would be given a unique insight into the way that juries operate. The opacity of the jury room means that, notwithstanding academic studies attempting to recreate its conditions, we know little about how juries approach their task. We have a fervent cultural faith in the inherent supremacy of trial by jury; let’s, Channel 4 suggested, cut open this sacred cow and have a rummage around inside.

As the Secret Barrister says, the jury trial is not about discovering the truth – but the programme behaved as though it was.

Obiter J also has a useful post on the programme, more about legal details and less about criticizing.

The history of Fanta

It’s been reported that Coca Cola, the owner of Fanta, made a bit of a blunder when it put up an ad in 2015 (now withdrawn) celebrating the 75 years of Fanta’s history with images from the Sixties – but 75 years takes us back to 1940, so the good old days were really the Third Reich. The new ‘original’ offering is in a brown bottle again. It seems that the ingredients for Coke were hard to come by in the war years, so Fanta was developed, using whey and apple pulp – citrus fruits came in after the war. The brown glass protected the ingredients from light.

This was just reported in English in The Local, but it is apparently a 2015 story.

The Local (English)
Die Zeit (German)

(Coke and Pepsi ads have recently been withdrawn in 2017 too, in the USA and UK).

According to Die Zeit, Coca Cola did well in Germany in the Nazi period, sponsoring the Olympic Games in 1936:

Coca-Cola galt in anderen Ländern als Wahrzeichen für den American Way of Life. Aber das Unternehmen arrangierte sich mit der Diktatur in Deutschland – und machte sogar außerordentlich gute Geschäfte: Zwischen 1933 und 1939 stieg der Absatz von 100.000 auf 4,5 Millionen Kisten. Die Firma war offizieller Sponsor der Olympischen Spiele 1936 in Berlin, und bei Kriegsbeginn gab es 50 Produktionsstätten in Deutschland.

German prisoners of war arriving in the USA were surprised to find Fanta had beaten them to it.

Trilingual Swiss Law Dictionary by Tom West

I am pleased to announce that Tom West has published the Trilingual Swiss Law Dictionary he has been working on.
You can find details and sample pages on Tom’s website. While you’re there, take a look at his blog (I’ve never succeeded in entering the feed for this in Feedly).
The dictionary can only be ordered from the USA at the moment, at createspace, but this may change in future.

The dictionary is a kind of three-column glossary, but with some explanations in the English column. The first column is either German or French. There is a useful introduction with remarks about the problems of researching Swiss legal lanague.

German-English legal translators sometimes have to research terms from Austria, Switzerland (several cantons) and Liechtenstein – I have translated German stuff from Alto Adige but not yet from Belgium. There are fewer reference materials available for these than for Germany. French translators must have the same problem. I know one translator who poses queries on mailing lists and whenever he or she doesn’t understand the text describes it as Swiss, which suggests the kinds of problems we face.

A few links

Interesting interview (in German) with Katy Derbyshire on translating Clemens Meyer Im Stein (Bricks and Mortar) Ich würde mir wünschen, dass die Literatur die Welt verbessern kann. The novel is actually on my bookshelves but I haven’t started it yet. It’s about the development of prostitution in an East German town after reunification.

The author and translator are apparently giving a talk at Senate House on May 11, from which I discover that there is a

GLGN – Greater London German Network.

The GLGN is part of the think german initiative of regional networks spearheaded by the German Embassy.
The aim of the network is to fight the corner for all things German in the Greater London area by bringing together all those people in and around London who have an interest in the German language and related cultures and facilitating both real and virtual communication between them.

They are on Facebook and Twitter too. Who knew? It claims I am following it on Twitter – must be linked to GSSN, the German Screen Studies Network, which I do follow.

The Institute of Modern Languages Research is now in Senate House, as I realized recently when reading a history of German studies in London called Glanz und Abglanz.

German restaurants in London.

Disturbing: German Village and Bierfest at Mile End.

Now when days get longer and the sun comes out again it’s time for the German Village Festival. Sit outside in our Garden and get the vipe together with friends or family and enjoy a bratwurst or maybe one of our 3 different special brewed Bavarian beers. In addition you can visit our FunTime area or get your self a Heidi wig in the special German souvenier house. In the evening you should join our party in the Bavarian FestTent – grap your Lederhosen or Dirndl and become part of the biggest party!

Heidi wigs also widely available online.

Gerald Graham – obituary

Some of our teachers of German in London were Jewish emigrés (I suppose that’s what we called immigrants then). For instance, I first learnt German at school from a Fräulein (Ruth) Hoeniger, who must have had a stroke a couple of years after I started and so I did not know her for long. I wasn’t even sure she was Jewish, but research indicated she was, and was born in Berlin and taught at schools in Leipzig in the 1930s. I wondered if she was related to the Johann Hoeniger who designed one of the Berlin synagogues, but was unable to confirm that. At university, one of our teachers was Dr. Ilse Graham. I did not know that her husband was a cardiologist at Great Ormond Street hospital, but here is an obituary of him in The Guardian. There are also memoirs online, Scattered Leaves, with photos, typed up by his son at dictation (I got that from a comment on The Times obituary). He was 98 when he died this year.

Having initially as a child wanted to study dentistry, at the age of about 10 I decided that this would be too limiting. I thought I should study medicine. At the age of about 16, when I first went to England, my parents gave me a book by an Ernst Scharrer, called The Brain. I had carried this with me for years and, much later in my story, when studying at Western Reserve, I had a Professor of Anatomy, by the name of Hoerr – and then a new person joined the staff, by the name of Scharrer! The penny dropped that this must be the same person who wrote my precious book. After his first lecture – he was an outstanding teacher, who would draw his complex diagrams with both hands), I went up to him and asked him if he was indeed the author of that book. He was amazed and asked how I knew of it – and then asked me to bring it in, which I did. At which point, he examined it closely and then said: “As far as I know, this is the only copy of my book in existence”.
What had happened was that he had just been appointed head of a major neuroscience institute in Frankfurt, recognized to be a very brilliant man. They were not Jewish, but as Hitler grew in power, they decided that they didn’t want to carry on living in Germany and emigrated to the United States, ending up as an Assistant Professor at Western Reserve. But because of the way they left – pretending to go on holiday and not wanting to take possessions such as his book, which might give the game away – he was not able to bring a copy with him. Meanwhile, the Nazis, because of the way he left, destroyed all of his books.

Gerald Graham, born Gerd Greiffenhagen, tells his eventful life story lightly. He emigrated first to England, then to the USA with his parents, and then to the UK again, in the McCarthy era.
Emigrating didn’t solve everyone’s problems:

When war first broke out on 1st September 1939, very little happened for a while. It was called the Phony War. During this period, the British Government found itself with several thousand German Jews about whom it knew little. How could it be sure they were not Nazi informers? It decided to intern the lot. They were in fact legitimate Jews, including professors and musicians. Some were sent to the Isle of Man and others to Canada and Australia. Ernie, who had volunteered to join the British Army, but was interned instead, was sent to Australia on a small ship. The “Dunera”, embarked on 10 July 1940, with 2,542 detainees, all classified as “enemy aliens,”. They included 200 Italian and 251 German prisoners of war, as well as several dozen Nazi sympathizers, along with 2,036 anti-Nazis, most of them Jewish refugees. The British crew of the ship understood nothing of the politics and circumstances of the Jewish group and, when the Nazis started to fight with the Jews on board, the crew took the side of the Nazis. They had terrible fights over about six weeks on a daily basis. As well as being dangerous, it was of course incredibly upsetting to have escaped to England and then to be placed at the mercy of those they had escaped from. Ilse remembered the case of one aged Jewish professor, whose manuscript – his life’s work – was thrown into the sea with a laugh by British crew members. The moment they got to Australia, telegrams were sent and it became known to the authorities what had happened and there was a debate in Parliament about it, with the Government fiercely attacked for allowing such a thing to happen. Steps were taken to have the Jews sent back to England.

I should also recommend Judith Kerr’s three-book autobiography, starting with When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.

(With thanks to Professor John Flood – not the only one I know)

Die badische Aktenheftung

Strafakte.de reports on die badische Aktenheftung as something historical. I have heard about this before and I suspect it’s still partially alive. In Baden, a special method of binding documents and bundles of documents has been in use since at least 1801 and they are sticking to it. Some more in Wikipedia, and more pictures. You need a special hole punch and also a bodkin/bodger to create tiny holes.


Von Hungchaka – Eigenes Werk, CC BY 3.0,

There was a famous case in 1970 when the court in Baden tried to refuse files returned from Cologne without the right binding.

At the bottom of this page you can see three types of binding:
Württembergische Büschel (rechts), badische Oberrandheftung (oben links) und preußische Fadenheftung (unten links)

Württemberg pink, Baden orange and Prussia buff (Prussia used to cover a lot of Germany).

This made me think how many local peculiarities live on in various parts of Germany – when you learn about the law you would think a lot of it is uniform. And 1801 or earlier does somewhat predate the existence of Germany as a country.

When I was training I learnt how to sew documents using green tape. These things are so much harder to photocopy that I wonder how often it is still done. But you can find information online so it is not quite dead yet.

Sewing together a legal document, from the Legal Secretary Journal.

A YouTube video in which Maria shows how to bind legal documents – interestingly classified as Comedy.

Frankfurt eyes London’s commercial litigation crown

An article in the Solicitors Journal:
Frankfurt eyes London’s commercial litigation crown
Brexit uncertainty, an underfunded civil justice system, and a less diverse judiciary are causes for concern, by John van der Luit-Drummond

The article reports that ‘moves are afoot to dethrone London as the preeminent dispute resolution hub.’ We’ve been here before – attempts to set up English-language courts in Germany were linked to a German campaign to sell German courts to international litigants. But Brexit was not part of the mix then. It is reported in the SJ earlier:

The Rolls Building is to be rebranded the ‘Business and Property Courts of England and Wales’ from June of this year in a move to shore up the jurisdiction’s reputation post-Brexit and to enhance the connection between the regions and the capital.

(Here’s the Rolls Building.)

On 30 March, ‘Justice Initiative Frankfurt’ was presented to German lawyers, judges, and business leaders with one aim: to attract more financial disputes to Frankfurt at the expense of London. The initiative launched by law professors Burkhard Hess, Thomas Pfeiffer, Christian Duve, a partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and Roman Poseck, the president of the Frankfurt Court of Appeal, is backed by the federal state of Hessen’s minister for justice, Eva Kühne-Hörmann, and will look to take advantage of the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s legal services market post-Brexit.

The link to Justice Initiative Frankfurt is to an English translation of the position paper.

The SJ has a Simmons & Simmons partner, Ed Crosse, who thinks English courts will continue to be preferred internationally.

‘When designing new procedures, the Frankfurt courts, like many others such as the Singapore International Commercial Court, will undoubtedly select what they perceive to be the most attractive procedures used by other jurisdictions and avoid those that are receiving criticism,’ explains Crosse. ‘We cannot be complacent about such matters.’

I have no idea how flexible the Frankfurt courts can be in choosing their procedures. The position paper quotes the German Code of Civil Procedure in the ‘official’ version not always popular with me.

There’s something about this on a blog new to me but which I intend to follow, Dispute Resolution Germany, by Peter Bert. He wrote about the subject on March 15 but perhaps he will return to it:

As much as I would like to see more banking litigation moving to Frankfurt, in my opinion, one very important factor will be the governing law: Unless the underlying contracts and financial instruments are governed by German law, it will make little sense to agree on Frankfurt as the venue. Parties, on the other hand, will only agree on German law if they have confidence in the courts. In my opinion, an effort must be made to align Justizinitiative Frankfurt, the Law Made in Germany project and the English language in German courts legislative initiative. So let’s see what is going to be proposed on March 30, 2017.