Court shorts

Parking problem

LYNDA CLARK'S installation as a Supreme Court judge, with the title Lady Clark of Calton, was not without its moments. First, before the ceremony, she managed to park in the space in the Parliament House car park reserved for Lord Gill, the Lord Justice-Clerk, prompting one observer to ask: "His parking space today, his job tomorrow maybe?" Then, during the pomp and ceremony of the five-minute swearing-in, someone's mobile phone went off. Like the real troopers they all are, none of the great and the good of the legal world batted an eyelid, and the show went on without interruption.

Legal fees queried

ABERDEENSHIRE Council is looking after not just the pennies but thousands and thousands of pounds in querying an advocate's fee. John Doohan, who previously had a career in social work, was appointed to provide a report on three children and to safeguard their interests in proceedings in the Court of Session to have them freed for adoption. The council was liable for Doohan's fee and had suggested a rate of 100 an hour but was gobsmacked to receive a bill for almost 20,000. It believed his 112 hours on investigations and 79 hours on preparing the report "substantially exceed the level it would expect to find in a case of this nature... the standard fee for such a report would be 1,500 to 2,500... the time engaged drafting such a report would normally be somewhere in the region of three to five hours."

The court's auditor was asked to investigate and he docked 2,500 from the bill. It was argued for Doohan that it was important to avoid penalising thoroughness and the auditor said he "does not doubt that the time spent... is accurate." The council remained dissatisfied and challenged the auditor's decision. Lady Smith said: "The quantification and payment of lawyers' fees has been the source of regular and unremitting anxiety, grief, frustration and even anger, for generations. This case seems to be no exception."

She felt the council's reaction to the gulf between the going rate for such reports and Doohan's fee was "entirely understandable." She identified flaws in the auditor's approach and returned the case to him for a second look.

In the money

APPROPRIATELY enough, one of the Bar's highest earners, Neil Brailsford, QC, was treasurer to the Faculty of Advocates, and now that he has been appointed a judge, his replacement is Richard Keen, QC, who, appropriately enough, is another of the Bar's highest earners.

Neighbours

IT'S a small world... as the woman who had just been picked in the ballot stepped forward to take a seat in the jury box, she looked up at the Bench and hesitated.

Lord Carloway, the judge, broke the uneasy silence and explained: "Ah, you are my next door neighbour...". The woman was excused from jury duty.