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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

J.J. and Mac... A Conversation...

An imaginary conversation between two made-up senior persons in public office. Any similarity to persons in real life is purely coincidental.

Ring-ring… Ring-ring…

“Hello …”

“Hey, J.J.… what’s up?”

“Hi, Mac! How are you? Long time no see… but I can appreciate that you’ve been busy…”

“J.J., I have a hypothetical situation to toss your way… as a professional student of the law… not in any official capacity...”

“Hmmm… Your tone suggests more than hypothetical, but I’m listening. Shoot.”

“A senior magistrate has a case before him. Very high profile matter. Very high profile defendant. Matter of public interest. Guilt is almost certain given the evidence presented. The only thing to kill the case is grave prosecutor error.”

“Uh huh…”

“In the middle of the case, a very senior judicial figure calls the very senior magistrate to their office and makes very suggestive statements, that in the interest of saving face of the public figure and in ensuring that a… uhm… a segment of the society does not feel victimized by association if the figure is found guilty, that the senior magistrate find a way to drop the case…”

“I see…”

“Hang on. There is more. The senior magistrate at first cannot believe what they are hearing, especially since this judicial figure has been accused of interfering in matters before. But the magistrate has made up their mind at that point not to take the discussion to heart. He goes to the tea room a few days later, and overhears that the public figure - the defendant in the matter - visited the senior judicial figure around the time of his own troubling conversation. They hear at a later stage, through the grapevine as it were, that the prosecutor in the matter had had a similarly troubling conversation where the senior judicial figure went out of their way to greet and converse with that lawyer on the case.”

“I’m getting a picture here…”

“I want you to remember please that this is a hypothetical situation.”

“Alright. I’ll wait for you to finish before I comment.”

“Thanks… Now I do understand that a case can be built for interference in the course of public justice. But that would be a tricky case to prove as it would be based on hearsay, and further, the judicial figure never issued an outright instruction to drop the case.”

“But he did speak to both prosecutor and presiding magistrate suggesting that they drop the case?”

“As far as the magistrate knows, yes.”

“A hypothetical situation, you say?”

“Given the judicial officer's alleged track record, I myself was thinking impeachment. I don’t think that what they are doing warrants prison, but it does appear to be improper use of their goodly office.”

“I suppose you’re right, Mac… Can I assume to know who the parties in your hypothetical case are?”

“I’ll call no names, but if you call ones that match the hypothetical characters, I may think about whistling.”

(Laughs) “I’m sorry. I know that this isn’t funny…”

“It’s alright. That was meant to tickle a bit… So… What should the magistrate do?”

“Well, we know the constitutional process for disciplining a judicial officer could be invo…”

“Not to cut across you, but sadly, a cursory reading of the Constitution is not perfectly clear on the matters such as this with respect to this particular office…”

“I’d have to get someone here to look into it… but I think you’re right… if it’s the office that I’m thinking about of course...”

“Now, our hypothetical judicial officer has faced a situation such as this before, and invoked a constitutional review, effectively blocking any action…”

“So he is likely to do the same again, you're thinking?”

“I believe that he might, assuming a ‘he’. What is of some concern too is that this would be the second matter reported. Once is an error in judgement. Twice is suggestive of habit.”

“Yes. Assuming a ‘he’… Mac, are you going to report this?”

“A hypothetical situation, J.J.”

“Come now, Mac.”

“J.J., please remember that I called you for advice as a student of the law.”

“Yes, Mac. Okay.”

“What would be the likely outcome, you think, if the judicial officer blocked the constitutional process again?”

“I would have strongly considered lodging a formal complaint with the Police so that the matter could be investigated. There would be the eventual laying of criminal charges if grounds were found for same...”

“But once it's turned over to the Police, the progress of the matter is completely out of anyone else's hands, yes? It's up to them and the DPP to decide whether there is a case to answer? J.J., I don’t think that this situation deserves criminal treatment, and that's where I see it heading… but I can see where you’re coming from. If the officer blocks and refuses to face a judicial tribunal, then I suppose criminal proceedings are a credible alternative. But I will tell you now that the hypothetical senior magistrate will be very hesitant to testify in criminal proceedings…”

“Given what is possible, would the hypothetical senior magistrate report the matter?”

“Given the confirmation that criminal charges may indeed be proffered and are considered an option, the senior magistrate would have to give the matter some serious thought.”

"Are you going to pose this question to Geoff? I'm just a student of the law. He's actively practising."

"Sadly, my options for seeking advice on the matter are fairly limited. I may not be able to ask Geoff, because he could already be too close to the situation." (Sighs)

“You alright, Mac?”

“Do I have a choice but to be alright, J.J.? Anyway, I’m due in Court… All the best to the family... and thanks.”

“You're welcome, Mac. All the best to you and yours as well.”

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