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UK Wigs Out

Posted in International on Thursday October 02 2008 @ 8:46am

Perhaps judges in the UK will take a cue from Beyonce and donate their wigs.

They won't be needing them anymore in court: the UK has decided that wigs are soooo 17th century! Starting now, civil and family court judges will tone down their look.

Gone, too, are the red robes. Too Santa-esque, or too papist? The new uniform is more subdued, although it was designed by Betty "funky British clothes for funky British girls" Jackson. HIgh Court judges will keep their red robes, but lose the different types of robes for winter and summer.

Not everyone is impressed with the change. Tradition! Wigs were also useful for judges who did not wish to be immediately recognizable outside of court. And judges never, ever had to worry about having a bad hair day. But cost, modern life, and simplicity won the day for the anti-wig factions. Criminal court judges will keep their traditional garb, although it, too, will eventually be phased out.

For a brief history of wig-wearing and commentary on the current trend, see Judges' Dress Should Uphold the Majesty of Law, Philip Johnston, Telegraph (October 1, 2008).

See also Judges Set Aside Tradition to Sit Without Wigs in Civil Court, Audrey Gillan, Guardian (October 1, 2008).

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Magna Carta, Shmagna Shcarta! UK Seeks to Detain Terror Suspects

Posted in International on Thursday June 12 2008 @ 9:15am

Is the Magna Carta part of the western world's legal and cultural heritage, or just a nifty historic document? Should we indulge in ancestor worship or mere ancestor curiosity when it comes to the m.c.?

In the UK, a repeal of sorts is in the works. A 42-day detention of terror suspects, without charge, passed the House of Commons.

The proposition is not without controversy. Shadow Home Secretary David Davis is resigning as MP for Haltemprice and Howden over the issue.

On the pro side, at least one commentator seems to think that judges just don't get it when it comes to fighting terrorism. See The Magna Carta Question, Michael White, The Guardian (June 11, 2008).

The legislation still must jump over the House of Lords hurdle, and would still be open to interpretation by the courts.

See Britain's 42-Day Detention: Draconian or Necessary? Mark Trevelyan, Reuters Blogs (June 12, 2008), and Davis Resigns as MP to Take a Stand, This Is Hull and East Riding (June 12, 2008).

See also Magna Carta -- It's All Arrant Nonsense, Michael Gove, The Times (June 9, 2008).

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Just Don't Answer Their E-Mail: Combatting Corruption in Nigeria

Posted in International on Sunday May 11 2008 @ 9:39pm

Proving our theory that examining problem-solving court specialties leads one directly to the top seemingly unsolvable problems of the day, now comes the anti-corruption court.

Corruption is the result of the lack of civil society, the breakdown of one or more of the estates (usually the fourth, but who's counting), and vast differences in the distribution of wealth (though not necessarily poverty per se, say researchers).

Corruption diminishes public trust and erodes institutions. Like quicksand, it sinks often already needy people into deepening poverty.*

International pressure has led to some reforms. For example, admission to the E.U. depends in part on a country's anti-corruption efforts. But is that enough? And what about the rest of the world?

A pending bill in Nigeria would create a special court for financial crimes related to corruption. Hopefully, it would not only help the country's economy by decreasing corruption, but also help speed up caseflow in the general jurisdiction courts. See Senate to Create Anti-Corruption Court, Laide Akinboade, Vanguard (May 12, 2008).

According to the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Kenya, Pakistan, and Philippines have tried implementing anti-corruption courts, and the idea is close to reality in a few other countries.

The courts are not without criticism, though. In the wrong hands, they make excellent political weapons. For some models and guidance, see Anticorruption Laws, Kala Finn, Anne Skove, et al (June 10, 2004).

See also the truly amazing mission and work of Transparency International.

*As for whether corruption is merely one culture's tradition vs. western do-gooderism, Transparency International says "cultural relativism ends where the Swiss bank account enters the scene."

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French Skills Helpful but Not Required

Posted in International on Thursday May 08 2008 @ 1:35pm

Want to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada (aka Cour supreme du Canada)? You may or may not be required to be bilingual.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has tried to make bilingual skills a priority in replacing vacancies on the bench, but one former judge claims that this is not necessary.

For one thing, the amount of fluency is open to question. Should the person just be able to understand both English and French, or also be able to write opinions in both languages? Few sitting judges meet the latter standard.

Simultaneous translation is available (though, for anyone who's ever been simultaneously translated, it's hard to get used to). Documents can be translated, of course.

Such is the plight of unilingual anglophones. We can't decide whether to smother our pain with freshly-baked madeleines, drown them in Moosehead, or both. C'est la vie.

See Bilingualism Not a Priority for Top Court, Ex-Judge Says, Janice Tibbetts, The Gazette (May 8, 2008).

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Jury Fun Around the World

Posted in International on Thursday April 17 2008 @ 7:45pm

When we first envisioned court-o-rama, I swore not to cover jury stuff...been there, done that.

But we would be remiss if we neglected to mention To Russia With Judge Mize, Deliberations (April 8, 2008). This is Judge Mize's report from his recent stint in Moscow, where he attended the Russian Jurors' Summit.

See also Deliberations owner and chief content muse Anne Reed's piece on her trip to Japan.

If you're a judge who wants to visit the U.S., you could do no better than to have your education trip arranged by the NCSC's International Visitors Program.

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New to You (Maybe): FJC's International Resources

Posted in International on Saturday April 12 2008 @ 4:31pm

We've been fans of the Federal Judicial Center (FJC) for a long time, but just recently noticed the International Judicial Relations section of their Web site.

There's a nifty collection of translated documents. Here one can find pdf's of FJC reports translated into Arabic, Chinese, French, Indonesian, Italian, Malaysian, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, and Vietnamese, plus the original English versions, and links to the National Constitution Center's translations of the U.S. Constitution. (Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and something called Simplified Chinese).

Nice resources, too, for judicial education in the U.S. and elsewhere.

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Do or Di: Conspiracy Theories, the Royals, and a Jury Verdict

Posted in International on Tuesday April 08 2008 @ 6:37am

To believe that Princess Diana was killed by something other than a car crash, you'd have to believe in two things:

1. That the government is capable of forming a conspiracy, and

2. That the royal family has any type of workable plan to keep its family members' secret lives in check.

Let's start with 1. A conspiracy requires 2 or more people to agree to commit a crime, and that they have performed an overt act in furtherance of that crime.

If you've ever worked for or with the government in any capacity, you know that a government conspiracy is next to impossible. Agreements and overt acts in furtherance of goals are not the government's forte. Anyway, where would they get funding?

We doubt things are much different across the pond.

As for 2, let's see...divorce, remarriage, Koo Stark, corgis, and a gay sex/drugs video blackmail scheme, to name but a few of the latest scandals. Either they're not very good at keeping things under wraps, or there are some really insane things going on at the palace and only the small stuff gets out.

So, 6 months, 278 witnesses, and $20m later (all 10 1/2 years after her death), a non-unanimous jury (9-2) has decided that negligent driving killed Princess Diana and crew.

What effect will this verdict have on public perceptions? Some people will never let these types of cases rest. Others probably thought that gross negligence (the driver was going 2x the speed limit, and his blood alcohol was 3x over the French limit -- which we imagine must be pretty high) was more likely than "cover-up" all along.

See Negligent Driving Killed Diana, Jury Finds, Alan Cowell, New York Times (April 8, 2008).

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Fallout Down Under

Posted in International on Friday March 21 2008 @ 6:39pm

What happens when a family court process is delayed?

Children grow older. Parents go bankrupt. Valuations grow stale.

Divorcing parents in Australia's family court can wait as long as 2 1/2 years for finality. Mediation, introduced as a helpful measure, is also time-consuming. It reportedly takes up to 12 weeks to get in the mediator's door for the first time.

The need is growing. Foreclosures are big news in Australia, too, exacerbating family stress.

Whether or not you agree with the author's premise that divorce is so awful that "we should try to make it easy and quick," see the informative Legal Backlog Plays Havoc on Families, Les Stubbs, Sydney Morning Herald (March 22, 2008).

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Year of the Blog

Posted in International on Thursday February 07 2008 @ 8:31am

Happy Year of the Rat!

Celebrate by catching up with these blawgs and blogs:

  • Chinese Law Prof Blog: Learn about "house arrest" in China, property law, grants for rule-of-law projects, and more.

  • China Law Blog: Fascinating post about the power of the middle class, imported products, plus other fine information from the firm of Harris & Moure.

  • IP Dragon: This fascinating blawg has been "gathering, commenting and sharing information about intellectual property in China to make it more transparent, since 2005." See Mao Jordon!

  • The Useless Tree: No, it's not that mimosa that shot up between the sun and your garden, it's a thoughtful and well-read blogger applying "Ancient Chinese Thought in Modern American Life."

And if you're in the east (or anywhere) and want to visit courts in the U.S., there's no better place to start than with the National Center for State Courts' International Visitors Education Program. This team hosts international judges, providing logistics, tours, educational programs, and other services tailored to the visiting countries' needs.

Visiting Chicago? Visit the world at International House. I-House hosts people as well as lectures, parties, festivals, and films.

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