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Know your judge

I am against TheBusker this week in a three day personal injury case in which we are arguing both over liability and also the value of the claim. TheBusker is defending the claim and of course if he wins on liability all other arguments fall away. My solicitor had called the case a ‘dead cert’ on liability which is never a good sign. ‘Can’t lose, BabyB. It’s our version against theirs and we’re the ones with the independent witness to trump all.’ Well, I knew better than that when it comes to TheBusker but I was at least determined to foil his usual courtroom tactics.

First off, TheBusker stood up and said, ‘Your Honour, might it be useful for us to decide the issue of liability as a preliminary issue?’ In itself a helpful suggestion you might think, were it not for the sting in the tail, ‘After all, if you’re with us on that, all the other complicated issues fall away.’ The judge nodded approvingly and I was already snookered, unable to object without seeming to be posturing for some tactical advantage in some way.

The next thing that happened took me by complete surprise. By way of background, most baby barristers are in the habit of using toy cars to help witnesses describe the accident and those looking for an angle tend to offer the toy Ferrari to the other side’s witness and a nice, safe, responsible Mercedes or Volvo to their own witness. Meant to work on the judge’s mind and all.

But this time around TheBusker had mentioned beforehand that I might want to watch it with the toy cars. Ever sensitive to his tactics I decided that this was some sort of bluff and so when it came to cross-examination of his witness I made a big song and dance of his witness taking the ‘speedy little number’. As soon as I did so, I was hit with the full force of the judge’s temper.

‘Mr BabyBarista, I am well aware that some members of the junior bar think the judiciary so naive that they can influence them through some sort of subliminal messages to do with the toy cars. However, I think you ought to know that not only do I find that implication offensive to the judicial office itself but I think perhaps it’s only fair to tell you that I myself drive a…’

He gave a theatrical pause before finishing with, you guessed it: ‘…a Ferrari.’

Ouch. TheBusker smiled and raised a sympathetic eyebrow. The trial continues tomorrow.

BabyBarista is a fictional account of a junior barrister written by Tim Kevan. You can buy the latest BabyBarista novel, 'Law and Peace' on Amazon. The cartoons are by Alex Williams, author of The Queen's Counsel Lawyer's Omnibus.

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