August is a quiet month and we Brits appear to becoming more and more like the French - normal life is put on hold for the month before the end of the year rushes up upon us.
Perhaps it is this which has drawn me towards reading legal judgements made over the past period, reflecting a need to fill my time and stimulate my thinking whilst providing a pleasing alternative to finding new clients.
I think however that there is something really quite interesting happening, with a number of powerful judgements which will shape legal practice and our lives as citizens.
In 2013, fees were introduced for those wishing to make a claim to an Employment Tribunal for reasons which, at the time, seemed spurious.
The number of applications dropped significantly as a result.
A case was taken by Unison, a Trade Union, and was eventually heard by the Supreme Court.
The judgement itself is worth reading for any number of reasons.
There is a statement about access to justice which stands out and is worth quoting in full. It is a powerful slap in the face to this and indeed any other government which considers reducing access to justice in the name of efficiency, cost savings or whatever.
"68. At the heart of the concept of the rule of law is the idea that society is governed by law. Parliament exists primarily in order to make laws for society in this country. Democratic procedures exist primarily in order to ensure that the Parliament which makes those laws includes Members of Parliament who are chosen by the people of this country and are accountable to them. Courts exist in order to ensure that the laws made by Parliament, and the common law created by the courts themselves, are applied and enforced. That role includes ensuring that the executive branch of government carries out its functions in accordance with the law. In order for the courts to perform that role, people must in principle have unimpeded access to them. Without such access, laws are liable to become a dead letter, the work done by Parliament may be rendered nugatory, and the democratic election of Members of Parliament may become a meaningless charade. That is why the courts do not merely provide a public service like any other."
Along the way, there is also an economics lesson on price elasticity which is profound and entertaining all at once.
There has been commentary in abundance on this case, some of it thoughtful and informed, some of it misguided and malicious.
In a profound and insightful judgement, the case is explored with care and sensitivity.
There is a statement about mediation which points to its value in any situation where sensitive and very challenging issues, potentially bordering on the impossible, are to hand.
"Fourthly, I want to mention, again, the subject of mediation. Almost all family proceedings are now subject to compulsory court led dispute resolution hearings. This applies in disputed money cases, private law children cases and in all cases involving the welfare of children who might be the subject of care proceedings. I recognise, of course, that negotiating issues such as the life or death of a child seems impossible and often will be. However, it is my clear view that mediation should be attempted in all cases such as this one even if all that it does is achieve a greater understanding by the parties of each other’s positions. Few users of the court system will be in a greater state of turmoil and grief than parents in the position that these parents have been in and anything which helps them to understand the process and the viewpoint of the other side, even if they profoundly disagree with it, would in my judgment be of benefit and I hope that some lessons can therefore be taken from this tragic case which it has been my duty to oversee."
A letter to a young person
I worked in child care for a short period and was surprised at how little attention was given to the child or the young person when key decisions about their lives were taken by professionals.
This letter to a young person is from a judge at the conclusion of a long and drawn-out case, and it is stunning - careful and sensitive, respectful, displaying significant empathy, a clarity of language and expression and with a good use of humour.
I have read it on any number of occasions, usually with some dust in my eyes.