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Evan Whitton
24 June, 2010  
The beak as perverter

Great new book on the judge-lawyer bias … Tom Bingham’s tome should be binned … So too Ken Crispen’s … Lawyer Theodore Kubicek’s work is spot on … Not to mention Our Corrupt Legal System ... And Graham Perkin was wrong about everything that mattered … Whitton at large

imageProfessor Ben Barton (pic), a US legal academic, put the question in a December 2007 paper: Do Judges Systematically Favor the Interests of the Legal Profession?

He answered it thus:

“Many legal outcomes can be explained, and future cases predicted, by asking a very simple question: is there a plausible legal result in this case that will significantly affect the interests of the legal profession (positively or negatively)? If so, the case will be decided in the way that offers the best result for the legal profession.”

To blandly pervert justice in that way, it is necessary for judges to employ a bit of sophistry, the art of lying. As it happens, their only training is in that useful, if not entirely desirable, commodity.

Professor Barton has since expanded his paper into a book with a title, The Lawyer-Judge Bias, which seems the wrong way round.

In news just in, Cambridge University Press will publish the book next year.

Noble lord’s deep and impenetrable ignorance

imageThe “rule of law” is a joke in the worst possible taste: British judges trained in sophistry ensured that the law is not interested in truth and justice; that lawyers can prolong the process interminably; and that the innocent go to prison and the guilty stay out.

It is not a joke to Tom Bingham (b. 1933, snap), the only beak to achieve the trifecta: Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice, Senior Law Lord.

In The Rule of Law (Allen Lane, 2010), the noble lord seems unaware of the injustice wrought by judges, or even that Magna Carta was basically a tax evasion ramp.

That the book may be the product of a sustained and sleepless sophistry is a prospect too horrible to contemplate, but it does seem to be the melancholy product of a deep and impenetrable ignorance.

I am thinking about pitching The Rule of Law out the window into the bowels of a passing garbage removal lorry.

Truth in a balloon

Theodore L. Kubicek JD (b. 1919), of Iowa, author of a book on the well-known oxymoron, Adversarial Justice (Algora, 2006), says:

“During my 40 years practising law, I avoided the field of battle known as the court room as much as possible as I soon became disenchanted with the adversarial system of justice.”

He has an image of the truth hanging over the court in a balloon. The lawyers can use strings to pull the balloon down to reveal the truth.

“Unfortunately”, Ted says, “each attorney also holds a stick [representing] obstruction, falsehood, lies, ambiguity, trickery, confusion, deceit, dishonesty, deception, or possibly perjury.”

When the balloon comes down, the lawyer threatened by the truth uses his stick to push it back up, and the judge or jury cannot make a proper decision.

Ted’s conclusion: get rid of the sticks, i.e. the adversary system.

Shock! Beak searches for justice

Former Justice Ken Crispin is partly known to fame for his ruling on diminished responsibility in the Anu Singh-Joe Cinque case (this column February 7, 2005).

Mr Crispin has now embarked on a commendable enterprise, The Quest for Justice ($35, Scribe, 2010).

imageMr Crispin is sound on the need to de-criminalise drugs, but sadly seems to think the system’s basic objective is truth. He says (p. 73):

“The quest for truth has often been advanced as the fundamental objective of the adversary system.”

He even quotes the dread Lord Eldon (seen here) to that effect.

It is also hard to take seriously a book on the law which has no index.
Where is that lorry when you need it?

The question remains: if Ben Barton and Ted Kubicek can see we have a dud system, why cannot Tom Bingham and Ken Crispin?

So long as you’re down …

Incredibly, Dr Bob Moles (LLB Hons Belfast, PhD Edinburgh) has resurrected six of my dead and buried books.

He tirelessly ripped out a couple of thousand pages scanned them into a section of his website.

Dr Moles also wrote the foreword to Our Corrupt Legal System: Why Everyone Is a Victim (Except Rich Criminals) ($35, Bookpal, 2010).

(I might say the simplest and cheapest way to get any book, including OCLS, seems to be from Book Depository who offer free shipping worldwide. The price varies with the exchange rate; OCLS was A$29.11 the last time I looked.)

I quite like OCLS’ history section (“Rollicking” – Fin Review.). It shows (what law schools don’t) how the two systems are the products of accidents of history:

* When our system began in the 12th century, judges were bent and lawyers were their bagmen. It went downhill from there.

* The inquisitorial system would still be rubbish except that, by a giant fluke in 1800, three of Bonaparte’s generals won the battle of Chicken Marengo.

imageMr Quentin Dempster’s (pic) launch at Gleebooks on May 27 was properly balanced. Dr Moles did the business on perversions against the innocent; I did the bit about perversions in favour of the guilty.

It was also quite jolly. Dr Moles presented me with a bottle of Grant’s – “So long as you’re up, make mine a Grant’s” by way of belated recompense for something he saw while ripping up Amazing Scenes: Adventures of a Reptile of the Press (Fairfax, 1987).

Returning by bus from Aldershot to the Waldorf in London with the dear old Bandicoots in 1975, I offered the brave lads a sip from a half-bottle of Grant’s I had brought in case of snow.

Despite entreaty, the bottle did not come back. When the coach, Dave Brockhoff, stepped off the bus, the first part of his person that touched the pavement was his forehead.

Surveying the recumbent, and as I believed, guilty figure, I said unkindly:

“So long as you’re down, Brock, make mine a Grant’s.”

A gilded reptile

Breaking News: The Golden Age of Graham Perkin (Scribe, 2010) by Ben Hills, is not quite a snip at $59.95. I can’t say what Book Depository has it for; it was out of stock when I looked.

Edwin Graham Perkin (1929-1975), of Warracknabeal, joined The Age in 1949. He rose to news editor in 1963, assistant editor in 1964, and editor in 1966.

imageIt was then as dreary and uninformative as any provincial bladder. Pig Iron Bob loved it.

An editor stands or falls on his judgment and the circulation of his organ.

Perkin (pic) was wrong on the Vietnam war; he was wrong about Malcolm Fraser’s grab for power by means other than the ballot box; he missed the hanging of Ronald Ryan; and he missed Dr Bert’s Wainer’s long campaign to show that bad abortion laws made bad cops.

On circulation, Perkin, an energetic copy editor, presided over a modest but useful increase, from 180,000 to 220,000, in 10 years.

By contrast, Stanley Cecil Chandler lifted Truth’s circulation from 220,000 to 400,000 in eight months from July 1966.

He did it by “telling the customers what is really going on” in Melbourne, a lot of insignificant details, and a fair amount of sex.

Mr Gideon Haigh, who trawled through back copies of Truth for his book on abortion and police corruption, The Racket (MUP, 2008), informed a seminar on Perkin’s golden age that Truth was a far better newspaper than The Age. Oh dear.

On the other hand, Perkin did not put Rupert Murdoch into London (and hence New York and hence Farks News), as Truth did.


Reader Comments

Posted by: Anonymous
Date: July 3, 2010, 2:27 am

I am honoured that my distinguished former colleague Evan Whitton should deem my biography of the former editor of The Age, Graham Perkin (Breaking News -- the golden age of Graham Perkin, Scribe) worthy of mention. However the rose-tinted hindsight which colours some of his comments needs clarifying. To quote with approval someone’s opinion that Rupert Murdoch’s Truth was “a far better paper” than The Age, based only on the evidence of its circulation, is as silly as saying that the National Inquirer is a “better” paper than the New York Times because it sells more copies. It would also have helped readers put this comment in context if Evan had disclosed that Truth is his alma mater. To say that Perkin was “wrong” about the Vietnam war is true, at least during the early years -- but, then, so was almost every other newspaper in Australia, and so were the overwhelming majority of voters at the “Vietnam election” of 1969. As far as I can recall Truth’s only contribution to that great public debate was to reveal that “nude pin-ups for Australian airmen in Vietnam have been rationed to one per bed.” To claim that Perkin supported Malcolm Fraser’s “grab for power” is just plain wrong -- I devote several pages to recounting his ultimately unsuccessful battle with the Fairfax board in support of the Whitlam government’s legitimacy at the 1974 election. He was dead before the 1975 poll which saw Fraser elected. To say that The Age “missed” Ronald Ryan’s hanging is also wrong -- The Age had a reporter at the hanging (as Evan must know, having been a witness himself on that day), but, like every other daily newspaper in Melbourne, declined to carry the story for fear of being seen by the public to be exploiting that terrible event. I’ll leave it to Evan to explain why that fearless crusaderTruth, which suffered from no such compunction, did not publish his report either. As for Evan’s comment that The Age also “missed” Bert Wainer’s campaign against police corruption, the real story which I relate in the book is rather more interesting. True, it was Evan’s report in Truth which first revealed that police were taking bribes from abortionists. But, given Truth’s lack of influence and credibility, the government did nothing for months, until The Age took up the campaign, editorially and in its news columns. Only then was an inquiry called which eventually saw several of Victoria’s most senior policemen jailed. -- Ben Hills (