‘So-called judges’

BY TODAY Colonnades was back in the Lower Library and life at the WS Society had returned to normal. The incredible profusion and variety of vehicles in Parliament Square at the beginning of the week were the only visible signs of the activity inside the Signet Library over the last ten days. 

IN OTHER High Street news, it was confirmed that the WS Society will have new neighbours, with the announcement that the Lothian Chambers building is to become Edinburgh’s French “embassy”. This perfect illustration of the “Auld Alliance” – celebrated at the WS annual dinner last November – was timed to mark the 70th anniversaries of both the French Consulate in Edinburgh and the Edinburgh International Festival. The “Embassy” proposes to redesign some of the interior to form a 100 seat auditorium, a 20,000 book and multimedia library, an art gallery, a language school and a support centre for French and European citizens. Everyone at the WS society looks forward to welcoming their new neighbours and working together in the future.

LAWYERS have been in the news for many reasons this week. Two of the UK’s most high profile lawyers were finally struck off, with Cameron Fyfe losing his appeal before Lady Dorian at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, and Phil Shiner, who was disqualified in his absence after a two day hearing at the solicitor’s disciplinary tribunal in London. Fyfe, a former partner of Ross Harper Solicitors was barred for breaching accounts rules. Shiner, an award winning campaigning human rights lawyer, was found guilty of multiple professional misconduct charges relating to the pursuit of legal claims against British troops over their conduct in the 2003 Iraq war. Shiner, who in 2007 was named the Law Society’s solicitor of the year, claimed to be too ill to attend the hearing and unable to afford a defence lawyer, in what the Guardian called “a vertiginous fall from grace”.

MEANWHILE, events in the US continue to develop at a dizzying speed. The week began with President Trump tweeting his disdain for the justice system: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!” The object of Trump’s ire was District Judge James Robart, a George W Bush appointee who was derided by the new president as a “so-called judge”. It is safe to say the legal community on all sides of the political debate was disquieted by the language used about a highly respected jurist. Constitutional experts in the USA look to be in for a long and vexing four years. Ironically, it was the president Trump supposedly most admires, Andrew Jackson – a lawyer no less – who said in 1829 “all the rights secured to the citizens under the Constitution are worth nothing, except guaranteed to them by an independent and virtuous judiciary”. 

SINCE A NUMBER of states are appealing the so-called “Muslim ban” executive order, the dispute is likely to go all the way to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Trump seemed just as infuriated by a New York Times report giving a disturbing account of White House life, featuring a darkened and half-empty West Wing and a president who spends considerable time “watching television in his bathrobe”. Sean Spicer, the president’s embattled press secretary took particular issue with the last detail, telling the press “I don’t think the president owns a bathrobe. He definitely doesn’t wear one.” Within minutes, twitter was flooded with pictures stretching back to the 1980’s of Trump in bathrobes. Elsewhere on social media some wondered about the basis for Spicer’s remark: “I pray I go for the rest of my life not knowing how Sean Spicer became aware of Trump not owning a bathrobe.” At least this issue – surely? – shouldn’t go all the way to the Supreme Court.

IN OTHER NEWS Trump’s nominee as attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has been confirmed by the US senate.

— “Writer”

Writer's Week is not intended to represent the views of the WS Society or its members.