Udal law and Orkney clapshot

Lifechanges…Delayed… recently had an entry about udal law (Orkneyjar, January 15th).

Digging around, I was surprised to learn that, because of its history and how Orkney and Shetland came to be part of Scotland, Orkney has a claim to be governed under udal law instead of common law. The Shetland & Orkney Udal Law Group (SOUL) has a lot of information about the old Norse law system and the history of law in Shetland and Orkney (in the context of restoring udal law).

I guess its a sign of one danger of devolution: just as Scotland is gaining more power from London, but now Orkney and Shetland are seeking a greater degree of separation from Edinburgh. The case SOUL outlines looks convincing, but how it would work practically and what it would mean (particularly in regards to fishing and mineral rights) is far from clear.

I’ve read about Norse udal law on the Orkneys before now, and the reason I haven’t blogged this yet is that I know so little. SOUL wants to restore udal law, but what the benefits of this are requires some understanding of Scottish land law, which is different from English law (I remember a rant by a Scottish lawyer saying equity is unnecessary). I don’t know what would actually be gained by doing away with the feudal system, since holding land under the vestiges of a feudal system in England and Wales seems scarcely different in practice from owning it in Germany.

Anyway, I quote David Walker’s Oxford Companion to Law (1980 – Walker is a Scottish lawyer):

Udal (or odal) law. The system of law which came to Orkney and Shetland with the Norsemen in the ninth century, and now co-exists there with feudalism of later Scottish origin. The odal is the hereditary estate held in absolute property and not of any superior, nor for any homage or service, but for a payment called skat, and a personal obligation to appear at the host or Thing. It comprises the homestead, the common lands, and land let to a stranger. Since the fifteenth century, Scottish ideas and feudal tenure have crept in and much land has been feudalized by charter from the Crown or through the Earl or Bishop of Orkney.

It appears you can study Allodial or odal law in English at Bergen University.

Meanwhile, in a comment to my last post on Burns Night, Ann informs of Orkney clapshot, a version of tatties and neeps toasted with cheese on top.

Burns night

It’s almost too late to wish everyone a happy Burns Night. Burns Night/Day is a Scottish feast day more important than Christmas (Christmas Day was not even a public holiday there till a few decades ago).

The official Robert Burns site gives information on holding a Burns supper.

Armin Grewe has a picture of a haggis on his site – actually a plate with haggis, bashed neeps (mashed turnips/swedes) and potatoes. (Armin’s list of bloggers abroad here). And some more information (source):

bq. Among Burn’s many poems is one called “To a Haggis,” in which he describes the dish as that “Great chieftain O’ the puddin’-race.” Naturally, haggis must be served at the party. Haggis tastes slightly like hash. It is made from the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep. These organs are finely chopped and mixed with toasted oatmeal, onions, and seasonings. Then everything is boiled in a bag made from the sheep’s stomach.

Non-verbal communication in road traffic

While researching a comment on the last entry, I found a site (in German) with a list of types of non-verbal communication in road traffic: Nonverbale Kommunikation im Straßenverkehr. They include five different ways of flashing your lights (Lichthupe, literally ‘light horn’), warning flasher (Warnblinker), foglamps (Nebelscheinwerfer), and indicator (Blinker).

However, they omit one signal I saw quite a lot of when I started driving again in Germany a couple of years ago – the middle finger (sometimes down to the elbow, with window open). There’s also tapping the forehead.

Another driving site gives information on driving during Fasching / Karneval. You mustn’t drive with a mask on.

bq. Besteht bei einem Unfall ein kausaler Zusammenhang mit dem Tragen der Maske, besteht wegen grober Fahrlässigkeit sogar der Verlust des Koskoschutzes.

bq. If there is an accident with a causal connection to the wearing of the mask, you may even lose your (comprehensive) insurance cover (I presume Kosko is a typo for Kasko, and not Kokos / coconut as I read it first).

German Road Traffic Act rewritten

Jurawiki has a full copy of the new text of the German Straßenverkehrsordnung (Road Traffic Act) as revised by Wolf Schneider, who is well-known for his books on improving the style of written German – a mammoth task to judge by the stuff I am given to translate into English. Schneider was commissioned to do this by the Auto Club Europa (ACE). But it was the German Federal Ministry of Transport (Bundesverkehrsministerium) that asked ACE to look into the matter.

This is just a suggestion and not law. Some of the vocabulary that is changed: Wechsellichtzeichen (‘changing light signs’) becomes Ampel (traffic lights); Schallzeichen (‘noise sign’) becomes Hupe (horn); Führer von Krafträdern (‘person in charge of motorized wheeled vehicles’) becomes Motorradfahrer (motorcyclist).

(via Ralf Zosel at LAWgical)

Former nanny training as solicitor

Louise Woodward was in the news a lot in Britain and the USA a couple of years ago, when she was convicted first of second-degree murder, later reduced to involuntary manslaughter (something like ‘fahrlässige Tötung’) when the child she was looking after died. She’s started a two-year training contract with a firm of solicitors in Oldham (see article in the Oldham Advertiser). BBC News reported this on 20th January, but it has just been picked up in the USA (via Law Sites, who got it from law.com, where it has probably scrolled). Some of the international headlines are on the lines of ‘Baby killer turns lawyer’.

EUR-Lex legislative drafting materials

EUR-Lex, the website for EU legal materials, recently added pages on legislative drafting (thanks to Rainer Langenhan – ‘Gesetzestechnik’).
There is a Joint Practical Guide, an Interinstitutional Style Guide, a Manual of Precedents, and Rules on Legislative Drafting (dead link). There are also links to national sites. The links to Germany are mysterious – one to the Saarbrücken law portal, excellent of course, one to the Bundesverwaltungsgericht (Federal Administrative Court), and one to some information on drafting in French at Fribourg in Switzerland.

One of the links for the UK is to the Parliamentary Counsel Office, which is responsible for drafting statutes, although the site seems unhelpful if you want information about drafting. Here’s a more useful page of international drafting links at Southamption Institute (of which I know nothing).

And here, my search threw up (to coin a phrase) the noble Lord Monson speaking in the House of Lords in May 1996 on the language of the Sexual Orientation Discrimination Bill (I don’t think it’s libellous – one has to be careful when quoting Hansard because Hansard is privileged by law and I’m not). The topic was ‘Page 2, line 18, at end insert (“male”)’:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, I shall, for the convenience of the House, speak also to Amendment No. 2 which is consequential. So far as concerns the English language, Acts of Parliament ought to set the highest possible standards. Those responsible for drafting statutes should resist siren voices urging them to lower standards whether for populist or any other reasons. The word “homosexuality” derives from a Greek word meaning same and not from the Latin word meaning man. For anyone who doubts that fact, perhaps they should consider the Italian translation, which is omosessualita, not uomosessualita, as would be the case if the word had anything to do with man or with “male”.

To say without a prefix simply, homosexual or lesbian is, therefore, a tautology and the equivalent of saying “human beings or women” which, as I said last time, is considerably insulting to women. As a matter of fact, to incorporate the word “lesbian” itself in an Act of Parliament is cutting it a little fine as the word also means an inhabitant of the isle of Lesbos–whether they be homosexual or heterosexual. Indeed, in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary in the Library of the House which was published in 1973 that is the first definition given. However, I am prepared to give the noble Baroness and her friends the benefit of the doubt in that respect.

In Committee the noble Earl, Lord Russell, who I am sorry is not present in the Chamber this evening–I somehow assumed that he certainly would be–maintained that Acts of Parliament dealing with sexual matters should be framed in the language understood by the under 25s–presumably the sort of under 25s who wear baseball caps back to front. If that were taken to its logical conclusion, the possessive “its” in all such Bills would be spelt with an apostrophe, all punctuation marks other than commas would be eliminated, “fortuitous” would be used when “fortunate” was meant, “infer” would be employed when “imply” was intended, and so on. However, in reality, the young people about whom the noble Earl was concerned rarely, if ever, consult Acts of Parliament. They get their information elsewhere. Acts of Parliament are meant essentially for lawyers and, therefore, they need to be written in totally unambiguous English.

Mannesmann payoff case in court

Yesterday, the widely-reported case relating to the hostile takeover of Mannesmann by Vodaphone began. Simon’s Blawg links to an English article in The Times. It’s reported as one of the biggest cases in Germany since WWII, and as a test of whether Germany is prepared to adapt to Anglo-American business ideas.
Here’s a later article in the Financial Times.
Six famous defendants are charged with ‘Untreue in einem besonders schweren Fall’ – a serious case of criminal breach of trust. They were paid lump sums of a total of 57 million euros.
Der Stern has articles in German.

European Court of Human Rights rules against Germany

Today, the European Court of European Rights held that it was a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights when Germany seized property from its citizens in the east after reunification in 1990. (Via Expatica)

This decision relates to land awarded to east Germans after 1945. A later decision will deal with land seized between 1945 and 1949, before the GDR came into existence and effectively under Soviet control.

In 1992, Germany expropriated the land without compensation. Up to 70,000 former GDR citizens are affected.

Here is a summary; the case itself should be on that site in English and French, but the links aren’t working at the moment. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung has an article (in German), together with a