Courts shake-up

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Alistair Drummond (your report, 25 May) informed us that Scotland’s “civil justice system is set for its biggest shake-up in a generation”, as a consequence of the Court Reform (Scotland) Act 2014. The act will introduce “reforms of cash awards”, it will nurture “new funding options”, it will establish “technology improvements” and extend the involvement of the Sheriff Courts in civil cases.

What the act won’t “reform” is the insular, parochial and “wha’s like us” mindset of Scotland’s judiciary – thus ensuring that the defective judgments of Scotland’s highest courts will remain exposed, an on almost regular basis, to the corrective reasoning of the UK Supreme Court.

What the act won’t “shake up” is the immunity from suit enjoyed by Scotland’s lawyers, since 1876. This ensures that they cannot be sued for negligence regarding their performance in court – even when that performance is the direct source of the ruination of their clients’ cases.

What the act won’t “reform” is Scotland’s farcical system of self-regulation for lawyers – as administered by the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates and the Judicial Office of Scotland. This ensures that solicitors “regulate” solicitors, advocates “regulate” advocates and judges “regulate” judges.

This system reduces to the absolute minimum, the possibility of effective censure, when clients complain about the misconduct of Scotland’s lawyers and judges.

What the act won’t do is establish a public register of judges’ interests. A register would minimise the possibility of a conflict between their interests and the interests depicted in the cases before them.

A mature, sophisticated judiciary would have no objection to a public register of their interests. The almost apoplectic hostility to a register by Scotland’s judges suggests that maturity and sophistication, not always dominant features of the judiciary, have been marginalised by playground tantrums.

Given Nicola Sturgeon’s recently declared hostility to a register, and her consequent support for the legal establishment, the desperate need to reform Scotland’s legal landscape will not preoccupy the Scottish Government.

Thomas Crooks

Dundas Street

Edinburgh