Mr Bean as banker/Britische Banken von Mr. Bean verwaltet

Business owners try (successfully) to stave off being wound up:

‘It aint our fault, the stoopid court froze the bank account so we cuddent pay the stoopid bill could we, but we done it today some’ow like’

The other director chipped in ‘Yeah, our account is managed by the banking equivalent of Mr Bean’

Everyone looked at the judge. Possibly because these two guys looked as if they meant business and would beat up anyone who would disagree with them.

The judge looked up ‘I am afraid that you will find that the whole British banking system is being run by the equivalent of Mr Bean!’

From an entry about winding up day at the law courts in London by Swiss Tony.

Another entry on the same topic by Paranoid Pupil.

Lawsuit, Shmawsuit/Yiddisch

Judge Alex Kozinski and Eugene Volokh on the use of Yiddish in court decisions:

Searching through the LEXIS legal opinions database reveals that “chutzpah” (sometimes also spelled “chutzpa,” “hutzpah,” or “hutzpa”) has appeared in 231 reported court decisions. Curiously, all but eleven of them have been filed since 1980. There are two possible explanations for this. One is that during the last 21 years there has been a dramatic increase in the actual amount of chutzpah in the United States–or at least in the U.S. legal system. This explanation seems possible, but unlikely.

The more likely explanation is that Yiddish is quickly supplanting Latin as the spice in American legal argot. As recently as 1970, a federal court not only felt the need to define “bagels”; it misdefined them, calling them “hard rolls shaped like doughnuts.” All right-thinking people know good bagels are rather soft. (Day-old bagels are rather hard, but right-thinking people do not eat day-olds, even when they are only 10 cents each.) We’ve come a long way since then.

Mind you, there’s no comparison with US language outside lawsuits.

This is a 1993 article, Lawsuit, Shmawsuit, available online.

(Via Ruth Morris, who writes on Interpreting in legal contexts and Interpreting in the Israel legal system – and has published on the same topic in England and Wales)

Words banned in court/Verbotene Wörter im Gerichtssaal

An article of 16 June 2008 by Tresa Baldas in the National Law Journal, Courts Putting Hot-Button Words on Ice, reports that words such as rape and victim are being banned by judges because they prejudice defendants.

A steadily increasing number of courts across the United States are prohibiting witnesses and victims from uttering certain words in front of a jury, banning everything from the words “rape” to “victim” to “crime scene.”

Prosecutors and victims’ rights advocates nationwide claim the courts are going too far in trying to cleanse witness testimony, all to protect a defendant’s right to a fair trial. Concerns and fears over language restrictions have been percolating ever since judges in Nebraska and Missouri last year banned the word “rape” during rape trials.

The article contains many examples.

This relates largely to the Nebraska case reported in July 2007. From Slate:

Nebraska law offers judges broad discretion to ban evidence or language that present the danger of “unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues or misleading the jury.” And it’s not unheard-of for judges to keep certain words out of a courtroom. Words like victim have been increasingly kept out of trials, since they tend to imply that a crime was committed. And as Safi’s lawyer, Clarence Mock, explains, the word rape is just as loaded. “It’s a legal conclusion for a witness to say, ‘I was raped’ or ‘sexually assaulted.’ … That’s for a jury to decide.” His concern is that the word rape so inflames jurors that they decide a case emotionally and not rationally.

I think the judge may have gone too far in this particular case.

In the NLJ article, note in particular the last section on the appeal against the Nebraska decision:

Wendy J. Murphy of the New England School of Law, who is representing a Nebraska rape victim opposing the judge’s barring of the word “rape,” said the major battle facing prosecutors and victims now is fighting judges’ censorship orders.

To date, she said, there has been no federal court ruling on the matter. …

Murphy tried when she appealed the Nebraska judge’s decision to bar a rape victim from using the word rape. She lost the case, and is now appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bowen v. Honorable Jeffre Cheuvront, No. 4:07CV3221 (D. Neb.).

At Language Log, Roger Shuy discusses the matter and adds that witnesses don’t often get to use their own words in any case:

“Using your own words” isn’t all that common in trials I’ve experienced. Among other things, you can’t introduce your own topics, you have to answer the opposing lawyer’s questions according to the form in which they are asked (usually yes/no questions, or worse, tag-questions), and you have to be ready to be interrupted at any time. Testifying requires a witness to learn a new set of communication skills, many of which can seem counterintuitive. Doing this can be daunting for anyone not trained in the special culture of the courtroom.

Details of McCartney-Mills divorce/Details der McCartney-Mills-Scheidung

Yesterday’s judgment in the Paul McCartney – Heather Mills McCartney divorce has been released in full. Both the Guardian and the Independent have the full text online, and no doubt they are not alone.

There hasn’t yet been a divorce. Both parties have agreed to wait until after May 1, when they will have been separated for two years and can therefore base their divorce on the fact of separation rather than ‘unreasonable’ behaviour.

This judgment relates to the ancillary proceedings for maintenance pending divorce and for property arrangements. The English courts can decide themselves what is a fair division of property, guided by statute and precedent.

The husband’s case on financial provision for the wife is summarised at paragraph 9 of the opening note of Mr Mostyn QC as follows:
“We submit that fundamentally this is a straightforward case. Because of H’s enormous pre-marital wealth and because of the brief duration of this marriage W’s claim should be determined by reference to the principle of need alone. This is not a case where the principle of sharing of the “marital acquest” is engaged at all. Nor is it a case where the principle of compensation will arise. W’s needs fall to be fairly assessed, not predominantly by reference to the standard of living during the marriage. W’s award should be reduced to reflect her postseparation misconduct. That misconduct is based on three distinct episodes as explained in our Conduct Note.”

Heather Mills McCartney’s case was harder to summarize. She argued inter alia that she was wealthy when she met her future husband and gave up a lucrative career for his sake; he advised her against taking on job offers:

Countless lucrative business opportunities were made to me once Paul and I married. Sadly, Paul advised against 99% of all of them. He stated that they were only interested in me because of his name and that I should just stick to charity work and he would take car of me. When I was asked to design clothes, create a food line, write books, make a video, write music or do photography, Paul would almost always state something like “Oh no you can’t do that, Stella does that or Mary does that or Heather (his adopted daughter) used to do that or Linda did that.” even though I had been involved with fashion and modelling for years.

There is much more.

The Guardian reports that Mills confirmed to the press that she had poured a jug of water over Fiona Shackleton:

Mills also confirmed reports that she had poured water on Sir Paul’s lawyer, Fiona Shackleton. Mills said she approached the lawyer and said: “I’m not a loser” before tipping the water jug over her.

“I poured the whole jug of water on her head. I was very calm”, she said.

Telling the cats/Gespräch mit Katzen zu undeutlich für Verurteilung

Telling the bees is an old tradition, but telling the cats should perhaps be avoided. The Times Online:

A pensioner who was charged with murdering his partner after police recorded him apparently confessing to his cats was cleared yesterday by a jury that decided his comments were the ramblings of an old man.

David Henton, 72, was hugged by members of the jury before returning home to his two long-haired Persian cats Pudsey and Twinkle.

I suppose long-haired Persian cats are even harder to groom than normal Persian cats.

The content of the recordings was disputed:

At one point according to the prosecution, Mr Henton said: “Good God alive. Don’t panic now. Police car I got. Good God I don’t believe I’ve done it.” But the defence version of the same segment read: “Good God alive. Police car I got . . . come on now, I’m coming,” interrupted by coughing, a clunk and road noise.

No beer for judge/Amtsrichter darf im Gerichtsgebäude kein Bier trinken

Fürther Nachrichten reports that the local court judge (Amtsrichter) Werner Schultheiß, who is retiring on April 1, would like to drink beer with his colleagues. Those in charge are not prepared to relax the total ban on alcohol in the Fürth Amtsgericht building, so he is going to court – to the administrative court in Ansbach, where the case will be heard on March 20.

Zum Abschied will Werner Schultheiß (64), Amtsrichter in Fürth, der am 1. April in Pension geht, nicht nur leise Servus sagen, sondern auch mit den Kollegen anstoßen. Das darf er gerne tun – solange in den Gläsern Wasser oder Limo schwappt. Alkohol ist in den Räumen des Amtsgerichts nämlich tabu. Dagegen hat der streitbare Richter Klage eingelegt.

Am 20. März steht nun vor dem Verwaltungsgericht in Ansbach die Verhandlung «gegen den Freistaat Bayern wegen Hausrecht« auf der Tagesordnung. Mit einem Antrag auf eine einstweilige Anordnung will Schultheiß, der am Registergericht tätig ist, ein «Biergebot« durchsetzen.

Painful back surgery / Tippfehler im Antrag

We all know that back surgery can be painful, but this got rather worse when it reached the typist’s hands:

Plaintiff moves the court for a continuance of the trial for the reason that counsel for the plaintiff is recovering from dick surgery and because of continuing pain is unable to properly represent the plaintiff in a trial. Counsel is unable to sit for long periods of time.

Scroll down for doctor’s note referring to disk herniation.

(Via Legal Juice)

Necessity / Notstand

The Vancouver Sun reports on the case of a homeless man who fasted for sixty days to attain spiritual perfection and then broke into a house, where the least of his criminal actions was that he ‘pigged out on cups of tea’.

He opened the presents looking for chocolates, raided the fridge and cupboards searching for delicacies, pigged out on cups of tea, chili, cream cheese and tortillas. He then puked and defecated in plastic bags before slipping into a stupor and curling up on the floor.

Still, Nelson convinced North Vancouver Provincial Court Judge Douglas Moss the foul behaviour was necessary or he would have died of cold and hunger.

Judge Moss acknowledged Nelson’s quest to reach spiritual perfection through fasting was “bizarre, to say the least” and noted the defence of necessity is rarely heard in Canadian courts.

Yet he acquitted Nelson.

The appeal court has now called for a retrial. Whether Jim Nelson attained spiritual perfection is not recorded.

I won’t go into the details of rechtfertigender Notstand and entschuldigender Notstand in German law. Here is something on it.

(Thanks to Legal Juice)

Kiri te Kanawa

I didn’t think I’d have occasion to mention law cases relating to antipodean underwear twice in one month, but here is the first and here the second:

The New South Wales Supreme Court, in Sydney, was told that Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, the operatic soprano, pulled out of a series of concerts with John Farnham, the Dagenham-born crooner, after she watched him being bombarded with intimate items of clothing at one of his shows.

Adrian Zack’s problem / Maschinenschreiben

The Wall Street Journal law blog reported recently of a case where a student sued the University of Michigan Law School, alleging that its grading system discriminated against people with poor typing skills.

Adrian Yaroslaw Zachariasewycz probably spent ten minutes typing his own name. The complaint begins ‘The plaintiffs (hereinafter Adrian Zack and Maria Zack) …’

The plaintiffs, acting per se, claim that in certain exams it was widely known that a large amount had to be written in a short time, and allowance was not made for some students not being able to touch type.
Michigan Law School informed the WSJ blog that students can choose whether to write by hand or type.

(Via The Water Cooler at timesonline)