Thursday, July 28, 2011

Courtroom Action


Canada’s Stork Derby Race: On the night of 30th October 1936, a pregnant woman in Toronto, Canada, belonging to a middle class family was in great distress, tossing feverishly on her sick bed. It was not the physical pain that made her suffer. Labour pain had not yet started. Rather, it was precisely the absence of labour pain that caused her anguish. If she could bring forth her baby, her 13th, into the world before 4.30 PM the next day, she could possibly win an exclusive claim to half a million dollar bonanza, the prize in one of the most fantastic races of all times, which was popularly then known as ‘The Great Toronto Stork Derby Race’.

The race had been touched off at the end of 1926 by the publication of the will of an eccentric misanthrope. Charles Vance Miller, a bachelor without close relatives, who died at 4.30 PM on 31st October 1926, had ordered his estate valued at over half a million dollars, to be converted into cash after 10 years of his death and given to the Toronto mother who bore the greatest number of children during these 10 years. The only stipulation in the will was that in order to qualify, children must have been entered in the Registry of Vital Statistics of the City of Toronto. No other conditions were stipulated.
Four families –the Timelocks, the Nagels, the Smiths and the Macleans—shared the half a million dollars bounty with 9 children each [born during the critical period of 10 years and duly entered in the Register, dead or alive]. Each became entitled to equal shares of little over one lakh dollars.

English Literature in Court: A Magistrate court in a London county was asked to try the case of a local school teacher whose dedication to English literature was almost equal to his devotion to the bottle.
“You are charged with being drunk and behaving disorderly” said the Magistrate.’ Have you anything to say why the sentence should not be pronounced?”. “ Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn” said the teacher “ I am not so debased as Edgar Allan Poe, so profligate as Byron, as ungrateful as Keats, so intemperate as Burns, so timid as Tennyson, so vulgar as Shakespeare, so” –-- “That will do” interrupted the Magistrate “Seven Days”. And turning to the court officer, he said “Officer, take down the names of the other he mentioned and round them up. They sound as bad as he is.”

Shakespeare in the Court: In a case pertaining to the avoidance of tax by an assessee, the Appellate Asistant Commissioner, an M.A. in English literature and specialized in Shakespeare totally disbelieved the assessee and his account books. After reciting some facts of the case, he wrote in his order that there was something rotten in the State of Denmark [referring to a quotation from Shakespeare’s drama ‘Hamlet’]. The assessee appealed against the judgment in the Appellate Tribunal and got a draft reply prepared in which he stated that the A.A .C had mixed up facts of his case with some other case in Denmark since the assessee had no dealings with Denmark at any time.

Lawyer’s Hand in his Client’s Pocket: A certain farmer spent a considerable amount of his savings in paying his lawyer for getting judgment in a litigation case that took several years for the court’s decision. The lawyer went on seeking adjournment after adjournment but charged his client for every appearance in the court. One day the farmer went to the lawyer’s chambers where he saw a portrait of the lawyer being admired by several of his friends. The portrait depicted the lawyer in his favourite posture, with one hand in his pocket. The old farmer remarked that the portrait would have looked more realistic and more like the lawyer if his hand had been shown in another’s pocket instead of his own.

Jurist Soli Sorabjee: Once while arguing a writ petition case in the Bombay High Court in which an order of confiscation by the Customs was challenged, one of the judges observed that my [Soli Sorabjee’s] clients should have exhausted the alternative remedy of appeal under the statute. When I responded by saying that an appeal would be from Caesar to Caesar, in other words, a futile exercise, the judge growled “Mr. Sorabjee, there is no seizure here: it is only a question of confiscation”.
My elderly instructing Parsi solicitor Rustom Gagrat pulled my gown and told me not to argue in stylish English but in plain legal language.

Dhoties and Trousers in the Court: In the fifties, there was a brilliant lawyer in Trivandrum by name Palghat Subramanya Iyer. He could easily be recognized in the corridors of the court by his immaculate dress—a white Finley dhoti, long black coat and a white turban with a touch of Kumkum on
his forehead. He was quite conversant with the English laws of jurisprudence also.

Once, Iyer was arguing a case in the Supreme Court and cited an English authority to substantiate his point of view. “How can you refer to an English case in an Indian court?” One of the judges asked the counsel, “The difference between English law and Indian law is as great as the difference between the trousers and dhotis”. The counsel was taken aback for a moment. However, he composed his thoughts and retorted “But your Lordship will appreciate that the underlying principle is the same “.

Lord Denning: Lord Denning has been a judge for nearly 35 years, which he believes to be longer than any other man has ever been a judge in the whole history of English law. He will always be remembered.
Some judges leave no more than a few footnotes but he has left his mark on the law. He is almost universally remembered as the judge who last year told the Attorney General of England, and told him in his rich Hampshire accent which he still retains “Be you never so high, the law is above you” ---
The Guardian [London] 7th Jan 1979

Women Judges: Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls, visited Australia sometime in 1966 and addressed the Australian Bar. He said he was very happy to find so many women in the audience. There was loud clapping. He added that he hoped one day some of these ladies would adorn the Supreme Courts of their respective States. There were great cheers. Hen he proceeded to predict that one day at least one woman would sit on the Bench of the High Court of Australia. There was thunderous applause, particularly from the female members of the Bar. And then he added, “Thank God, by that time I shall be dead!”


ARTICLE NO. 559--Wills, Lawyers, Judges and Court Rooms
Create: Friday, March 19, 2010 9:17 PM


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home