Lessons in subtle rudeness from the Supreme Court bigshot
President of the Supreme Court Lord Neuberger has let advocates into a little secret this week.
The most “celebrity” of all the justices has revealed you can get away with being rude to judges in the courtroom, but you have to be “subtle” about how you go about it.
In a recent lengthy lecture, Oxford graduate Neuberger said there is a “common link” between “courtesy” and “court”.
Despite this, the top judge — who not so long ago urged judges to be nice to one another in their judgments — told his audience that court hearings “are not always the occasion for politeness or consideration”.
This is because, he said:
Conducting a case in court is an inherently tense and confrontational exercise.
But flat out rudeness to judges is a different beast, and crosses the line for two main reasons. First, it can amount to contempt of court and, second, riling a judge is hardly sensible if you’re an advocate keen to win your case.
But fear not rude lawyers of the world. Make your rudeness “more subtle”, and you might just get away with it. Neuberger continued:
[W]hen the judge makes what the advocate thinks is a stupid point, the advocate will often begin his answer with the words, ‘My Lord, with great respect…’; if he thinks the point is particularly stupid, the advocate may begin his answer by saying, ‘My Lord, with the greatest respect…’. I leave it to your imagination as to what an advocate thought of a point I once made to him in argument when he started his answer with the words, ‘My Lord, with the very greatest respect possible…’
Unfortunately for us, we won’t be treated to any more pearls of wisdom from everyone’s favourite Jay Z loving judge, not for the next three weeks or so anyway.
The Supreme Court disappointed die-hard Neuberger fans across the country last week when it revealed the top justice will be taking a break from his court duties while he undergoes hip replacement surgery.
Legal Cheek wishes him a speedy recovery, and in the meantime you can read Neuberger’s full speech on courtroom courtesy here: