In Re Rameshwar Prasad Goyal, Advocate, Supreme Court of India, 22 August 2013, read judgment
For the moment, at least, the idea of Stobart-law, supermarket-law, or call-centre-law as the solution to the increasing cost of criminal justice seems to be on hold. But this broadside from the Indian Supreme Court (including my title) helpfully reminds us that the relationship between judges, advocates and their clients fits with difficulty into the bilateral model of most of the entirely commercialised world. The advocate owes a more complex set of duties to the court as well as to his or her client than are typically found in a haulage contract.
Shri Rameshwar Prasad Goyal, Advocate-on-Record or AOR in this case, is, according to Indian court statistics, a very busy man. He was acting in 1678 cases in 2010, 1423 cases in 2011, and 1489 cases in 2012. But he has never actually appeared in court on behalf of his clients. Indeed a request from the Court in the present case for him to appear to explain himself was refused – try that in the High Court in the UK. It did not go down well in New Delhi either. The Court, having chucked out his hapless client’s application, declared that Goyal was guilty of conduct unbecoming an advocate, and told him that if he did not do better over the next year (i.e. turn up to court for his clients) he would get struck off.
The underlying facts show the dangers of allowing all of law to be run completely on business lines. Goyal had found an excellent and cost-efficient business niche. But as the Court explained
In a system, as revealed in the instant case, a half baked lawyer accepts the brief from a client coming from a far distance, prepares the petition and asks an AOR , having no liability towards the case, to lend his signatures for a petty amount. The AOR happily accepts this unholy advance and obliges the lawyer who has approached him without any further responsibility. The AOR does not know the client, has no attachment to the case and no emotional sentiments towards the poor cheated clients. Such an attitude tantamounts [sic] to cruelty in the most crude form towards the innocent litigant.
What is it about law that gives rise to this imbalance? If I go into the bread shop, and am asked £10 for my loaf, I walk out, because I know the price of bread. If I go to my lawyer about a case, which as an individual, I may do (if I am unlucky) once in my life, I have little idea of the standard of the service which I might receive. Even if it were Stobart- or Tesco- law, I might hope that they do things reasonably well, but in truth most people would not really know. Indeed most of us expect never to be arrested in our lives, so we don’t know what can be done by our lawyers if we end up there.
That said, turning up to court is normally expected of an advocate. Indeed, a little more than that, as the Court cuttingly observed
Thus, not only is his physical presence but effective assistance in the court is also required. He is not a guest artist nor is his job of a service provider nor is he in a professional business nor can he claim to be a law tourist agent for taking litigants for a tour of the court premises.
“Service provider”, now there is a phrase beloved of those designing our new criminal justice system – necessary, but not sufficient, for justice.
The Court continued by pointing out that in the present era, the legal profession, once known as a “noble profession”,
has been converted into a commercial undertaking. Litigation has become so expensive that it has gone beyond the reach and means of a poor man. For a longtime, the people of the nation have been convinced that a case would not culminate during the lifetime of the litigant and is beyond the ability of astrologer to anticipate his fate.
The UK system still has to crack the costs of litigation, given the conflicting difficulties of litigating properly and cost-efficiently for clients, but it is at least working on that hard, But we do seem to have sorted the time it takes to get to answer problems which we set our judges. Timing has been ruthlessly policed by our courts in recent years, so that you need a pretty good excuse for doing something late or slowly. So, unlike the gloomy picture presented by the Indian Supreme Court, most people know whether they have won or lost before they die – so astrologers are not generally necessary.
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Kirovogradoblenergo, Pat v Ukraine (Application no. 35088/07) 27 June 2013 – read judgment
Shortly after the break up of the Soviet Union, the Ukraine introduced an interesting piece of legislation called the Status of Judges Act.
Being a judge behind the Iron Curtain couldn’t have been much fun, and rendering the profession more attractive once society had opened up somewhat was probably one of the more pressing challenges facing the new regime. One of the chief provisions in the SoJA was to spare members of the judiciary from paying half their electricity bills. What this tells us about the status of judges before and shortly after the dissolution of communism is itself an interesting subject, but outside the scope of this post. Continue reading →
Two sets of judgments today from a 9-judge Supreme Court in the Bank Mellat case. The first explains why the Court adopted a secret procedure in the absence of the Bank (i.e. a Closed Material Procedure) but added that the whole palaver in fact added nothing to their knowledge. The second concludes that financial restrictions imposed in 2009 on an Iranian Bank which effectively excluded it from the UK financial market were arbitrary and irrational and were also procedurally unfair.
The saga started when on 9 October 2009 the Treasury made a direction under Schedule 7 of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 requiring all persons operating in the financial sector not to have any commercial dealings with Bank Mellat. The Treasury said that the Bank had connections with Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme. Continue reading →
Elvanite Full Circle v. AMEC Earth & Environmental (UK) Ltd  EWHC 1643 (TCC), Coulson J read judgment
The Jackson reforms, which are designed to stop lawyers spending too much of their clients’ or their opponents’ money, are still but young, and therefore not yielding much in the way of decided cases. But there were some pilot schemes which are very similar, and this case about one such scheme (in the Technology & Construction Court) is an interesting, and tough, example of why costs budgets must be taken seriously.
Elvanite claimed that AMEC had given them negligent planning advice about waste management. Coulson J dismissed the claim. AMEC sought and got their costs. But, from the judge’s judgment on costs, it seems unlikely that they will recover more than 50% of their actual costs. Why?
One of the most contentious proposals in the Consultation Paper on the transforming legal aid is the removal of client choice in criminal cases. Under the proposals contracts for the provision of legal aid will be awarded to a limited number of firms in an area. The areas are similar to the existing CPS areas. The Green Paper anticipates that there will be four or five such providers in each area. Thus the county of Kent, for example, will have four or five providers in an area currently served by fifty or so legal aid firms. Each area will have a limited number providers that will offer it is argued economies of scale.
In order to ensure that this arrangement is viable the providers will be effectively guaranteed work by stripping the citizen of the right to choose a legal aid lawyer in criminal cases. Under the new scheme every time a person needs advice they will be allocated mechanically by the Legal Aid Agency to one of the new providers. It may not be the same firm the person has used before. The citizen will therefore not be able to build up a relationship with a solicitor. From a human rights perspective this, of course, begs the question would the removal of choice be compatible with the ECHR?
“Yes, come to the library! Browse and borrow, and help make sure it’ll still be here tomorrow…” Thus concludes “Library poem”, penned by Children’s Laureate and Gruffalo creator Julia Donaldson, the latest high profile recruit to the campaign against planned library closures.
There have been a number of developments since we last blogged on this issue:
Updated | Bailey & Others v London Borough of Brent Council  EWHC 2572 (Admin) – Read judgment
Every Wednesday my daughter looks forward to the arrival of the mobile library at her nursery. Two by two the children go into the little world of books and emerge holding a new story they have chosen for themselves.
Not for long. Despite the well-documented advantages of exposing children to the joys of reading at an early age – before the attractions of TV, video games and looting shops take hold – library services across the land are being targeted for cuts.
The duty to provide library services for children was one of the key arguments advanced by campaigners in Brent challenging the council’s decision to close 6 of its 12 libraries. Reliance was placed upon section 7 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. This requires local authorities to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service.
R (JG and MB ) v. Lancashire County Council  EWHC 2295 (Admin) – read judgment here.
Public sector cuts are back in the news, with the trade unions warning of their plans to stage the biggest series of strikes in a generation. However, attempts to take the fight against the cuts into the courts as well as onto the streets were dealt a serious blow recently, as the Administrative dismissed an application by two disabled women for judicial review of Lancashire County Council’s decision to significantly reduce their budget for adult social care services.
This case provides a very helpful summary of the courts’ approach to public bodies’ equality duties (now the new general Public Sector Equality Duty in s.149 of the Equality Act 2010). It is also a reminder that the courts are reluctant to interfere with difficult social or economic decisions made by elected officials, as long as there has been proper consideration of the relevant factors, despite other recent cases where such decisions have been struck down.
Bahta & Ors, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department & Ors  EWCA Civ 895 – Read judgment
The general rule in civil law cases is that the loser pays the winner’s legal costs, even if the case settles before trial. As with all general rules, there are plenty of exceptions, and many relate to public authorities. Two of those exceptions have just been chipped away at by the Court of Appeal.
Two important judgments increasing the likelihood that local authorities will have to pay out costs emerged the usual last-minute glut before the court term ended on Friday. The first concerned costs in the Court of Protection when an authority has unlawfully deprived a person of their liberty. The second was about costs in immigration judicial review claims which had settled following consent orders.
The Commission for Equality & Human Rights has been ordered to pay costs of court proceedings to two members and a former member of the British National Party. Although the decision is a technical one relating only to costs of proceedings, it highlights the financial risks which must be borne by those seeking to police and enforce compliance with the requirements of human rights law. Continue reading →
A jury at Southwark Crown Court found Taylor guilty of six counts of false accounting under section 17 of the Theft Act 1968, by a majority of 11 to 1. The expense at issue totalled £11,277. Mr Justice Saunders, who also sentenced Chaytor, presided over the trial.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the UK’s controversial no-win-no-fee costs system violated the Daily Mirror’s freedom of expression rights after it was forced to pay model Naomi Campbell’s legal fees after a 2004 House of Lords judgment.
The European Court attacked the present costs system, and in particular success fees, using the findings of the recent review by Lord Justice Jackson, which the government intends to mostly implement. It held that the costs system often amounted to the “blackmail” of defendants, and has had an unjustified chilling effect on the press.
Updated The High Court has ruled that the Legal Service Commission’s legal aid tender process was “unfair, unlawful and irrational”. The decision came in a judicial review of the tender brought by the Law Society.
A new report from the think-tank Civitas argues that increasing community sentences and cutting prison numbers will lead to more crime and add to costs too.
This is contrary to the the view of the Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, who has argued recently that there is no link between the rising level of imprisonment and falling crime.
The report, Prison, Community Sentencing and Crime, is by Ken Pease, a professor at the Manchester Business School and a former Home Office criminologist. It does not present any significant new research; rather, it seeks to put the other side of the debate on prison numbers, in light of the “apparently concerted attempt to justify an increasing use of community sanctions in place of custody for convicted criminals”.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is to cut £2bn from its £9bn or so budget. But where will this 20% cut come from?
Kenneth Clarke’s MoJ are said to have got in early in agreeing spending reduction targets with the Treasury, and yesterday it was reported by the Public and Commercial Services Union that senior staff were informed by email that the cuts will amount to around £2bn of the overall budget. The Union suspect that around 15,000 of the MoJ’s 80,000 staff may have to be axed.
However the MoJ makes the cuts, a reduction of around 20% is likely to have severe effects on access to and provision of justice in the United Kingdom. Various MoJ-funded bodies have already been lining up to explain why their departments could not survive on much less. The criminal legal aid system has long been said to be in crisis, the President of the Family Division indicated last week that the child protection system is in grave danger of imploding, and the Chief Executive of the Supreme Court has said the cuts could cripple the new court.
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