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Mr Justice Peter Smith will face disciplinary hearing later this month

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Judge of lost luggage fame has been suspended on a full £181,566 salary since May 2016

A controversial judge, who, among other things, raised the matter of his own lost luggage during a high-profile British Airways (BA) competition case that he was presiding over, will finally face a disciplinary tribunal later this month, it has emerged.

Mr Justice Peter Smith, who sits in the High Court’s Chancery Division, is one of the judiciary’s more colourful characters. He first hit the Legal Cheek headlines back in 2015, when he embarked on a bizarre in court lost luggage rant, complaining his suitcase had been misplaced during a flight back from Florence.

At the time, Legal Cheek published a copy of the court transcript from the hearing, which indicated that Smith had probed BA’s barristers over his misplaced bag on at least 30 separate occasions.

Triggering widespread media attention, it was at this point that the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) first started looking into Smith’s behaviour.

However, it wasn’t until the spring of 2016 that 65-year-old Smith hit headlines again. On this occasion, he penned a letter to the joint-head of Blackstone Chambers, Anthony Peto QC, in which he pledged to “no longer support” his chambers.

The missive — which was later described as “shocking” and “disgraceful” by senior judges in Court of Appeal ruling — was in response to an article written by Blackstone Chambers’ David Pannick QC. The piece, published in The Times newspaper, was critical of Smith’s handling of the now well-publicised BA saga.

Over a year on, it has now been reported that Smith will face a two-day disciplinary tribunal starting on Monday 30 October.

The unnamed four-person panel will sit at an undisclosed location and consist of a Court of Appeal judge, a High Court judge and two non-lawyers, according to Joshua Rozenberg. The allegations that Smith faces have not been published.

A spokesman for the JCIO said:

The JCIO can never comment on the detailed progress of cases.

Following the hearing, Smith has ten days to respond before the tribunal issues its recommendations to the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor. They will then determine whether further action needs to be taken.

Last year, a report had suggested that Smith — who has been suspended on a full £181,566 salary for past 18 months — was “understood to be mentally unfit to defend himself in a disciplinary inquiry”. It’s still not clear whether Smith will attend the hearing in person.

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21 Comments

Trumpenkrieg

He dindu nuffin

Anonymous

For anyone wondering, “dindu nuffin” is a meme from less pleasant parts of the internet designed to mock black people. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/dindu-nuffin

More Trumpenkrieg for you.

Anonymous

Oh fuck off.

Trumpenkrieg

It’s actually mocking people who make disingenuous pleas of innocence on behalf of people who, as is the case with the majority of Black Lives Matter martyrs, had it coming to them by way of a lengthy run of violent and criminal behaviour before coming to a sticky end at the hands of the police. But don’t let the facts get in the way of your virtue signalling.

Anonymous

Of course, for Trumpenkrieg the mere fact of being black is rock solid proof that someone was a criminal who ‘had it coming to them’.

TFG

Well quite. Plus what good old Trumpy hasn’t appeared to grasp is that, in employing the words “virtue signalling” (as he infrequently does) he is himself virtue signalling.

Anonymous

I beg to differ. He stuck a shoe polishing brush to his front lip. That qualifies on its own…

Anonymous

Good work LC.

It only took 4 days to pick the pieces from Rosenberg’s work.

Anonymous

*Rozeneberg

Anonymous

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage about the luggage on the flight.

Iami dindu nuffin Rastafari of Counsel

2 non lawyers?
I thought High Court Judges can only be removed by Parliament. Please correct me if wrong.

Anonymous

Nowhere does it suggest that the tribunal has any power to sack him. Perhaps you missed this: “Following the hearing, Smith has ten days to respond before the tribunal issues its recommendations to the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor. They will then determine whether further action needs to be taken.”

Travelling Gavel

You’re wrong.

You’re welcome.

Anonymous

I’ve no idea whether Peter Smith J deserves sanction or not.

I just hate the spectacle of a disgruntled lawyers’ feeding frenzy – and a media circus – directed at a person who was by all accounts a first class barrister and a very good judge.

Anonymous

Yeah, but he was never one of the ‘boys’, wrong school, wrong accent, wrong club. Pity, cause as you rightly mention he’s a fine lawyer.

Anonymous

‘For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.’

His words have ‘condemned’ him to be a dickhead and it’s a shame, like you say, given that he is not a typical judiciary ‘posh boy’ yet there it is. His success ended up with him getting high on the smell of his own farts. Time to open up a bookshop in Cheltenham and sod off out of public life.

Pannick’s an arsehole as well though – this is widely known.

Anonymous

Smith was an unmitigated disaster of a judge. The BA luggage joke and the Pannick letter are but examples of his incompetence, because they are the basis of his disciplinary process. It started earlier, when he was sitting on the case of the Da Vinci Code, and could not resist putting word-play into his judgement. He went off the rails again in a case involving counsel from Africa, and in the Chelsea Barracks case. He has been the target of multiple applications for recusal, a lot of which succeeded (mostly on appeal).

The final straw was the quashing of his judgement on the Harb-v-Saud case, where the Pannick letter surfaced. But his judgement was overturned on appeal not specifically because of that letter, but because he made such a mess of the entire case.

His judgements are notoriously hard to read and understand. As the CoA commented in the Da Vinci Code case, he should have paid more attention to making his judgements easier to decipher, than by trying to be clever and insert silly codes. But he never learned.

Of course he must have been a good lawyer, to make it to a high court judge, but not every lawyer necessarily makes a good judge. There is a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to his career of mishaps: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Smith_(judge)

The whole affair has been very badly handled. How could he, in good conscience, draw his full salary under these conditions. And is he, or he is not, mentally unfit? And if he is, then when did any mental condition start and could it have been responsible for some of his more outlandish behaviour? If he is mentally unfit, why allow him to continue to draw his salary?

The extreme secrecy surrounding the process just makes it increasingly undignified and untrustworthy.

Anonymous

Top bants

Anonymous

There is an impression here that a Judge has the measure of litigation positioning by corporations with limitless resources and decades of bureaucratic nouse. They have done a job on him. He has found this strssful in the past and he has tried to find a job in law outside of the High Court with Addleshaws. This was unsuccesful. Addleshaws used the situation as grounds of appeal in a case they lost where the partner who refused Smith s job application was on the record.
In the BA case , BA were holding out against up to 65000 claimants. They tried to raise the idea that Smith should recuse himself on the basis that he was not competent to hear competition law issues. He held is ground and, arguably maintained the independence of the judiciary, pointing out that although he had not Sat since nominated as such, he had been a competition law judge for 4 years.
Ba persisted.
He ended up taking a flight with ba. His luggage went missing together with a number of other passengers.
He complained low level and got nowhere.
He raised it to the chief exec and was critical of the facts of the loss and the handling.
Ba then applied for recusal on the grounds of bias because of smiths vigorous pursuit of the matter.
In the final furlong Smith is saying to ba’s qc “why don’t you just get the ce to answer the issue about what happened to the luggage and then the conflict will go away.?”

Ba won’t play ball on that simple pitch.

Smith raises the idea that the treatment of his luggage may have common features with the claimants cases, which is very interesting and having fired that salvo, he recuses himself.

Joshua Rosenberg and David Pannick both attacked him subsequently and appear to have drawn blood.

LC have taken up the pompous and incompetent line of narrative.

I think it would be far more interesting to hear from Smith as to how he thinks he was being fair and independent in taking the line he took in all his alleged bias cases. The appeal process to the court of appeal about each incidence of bias at the time does not appear to have taken evidence from him, so key testimony is missing.

The trouble is that one expects he will be judged by the kind of judges who used to be retained by corporations such as ba and their lawyers (slaughters), and the journalists who have been approved to be queens counsel by their ilk, rather than by judges who used to be the salt of the earth at the bar.

If you are reading this Peter, good luck. Don’t take meds, swim, and If you are confident you are a good man, get your point of view recorded and published. It will be very illuminating, as your letter to Peto was.

If they are out to get you, make them work hard !

Anonymous

Precisely on point. If he wanted to, he could seriously undermine the whole judiciary by spilling the beans on his colleagues as part of his defence.

Anonymous

I expect readers of legal cheek have heard of client journalism.

I expect readers of legal cheek will have seen the observations of a commenter that it was actually the Judge Rinder t.v. production department actually led the now famous story about the two men who cooked up a dispute to claim the 5000 royalties offered by the show

I wonder if the genius who wrote the Wikipedia website, link above, about Peter Smith also sketched out some complaints for client journalists to print In their organs, if such journalists could be found.

Where is the Frustrated Writer with his parody on this one ?

It would be nice to think that Peter Smith had done enough street law to put in a data protection subject access request to ba to see what emails his letter of complaint generated to the marketing director, if any, and to seek an order asking for an IT search, as Gordon Ramsey did against his allegedly fraudulent family member, if there were apparently none at all :).

The gist of Smith’s case is , see page 10 and 11 of the stenographer’s note, that in the modern world parties use recusal applications like this one was to try to oust judges when the litigation is not going well for them. Here he suggested that counsel and solicitors were prolonging the supposed conflict of interest by deliberately not asking for what was effectively a conclusion of Smith’s letter of complaint.
Somebody fed the Gazette a line about 65000 chinese claimants with an 8 billion claim for freight price fixing being struck out a few months after Smith recuses himself, so ba got what they wanted.

It would have been a disaster for a number of UK pension funds and investment funds if the 8 billion claim had been properly lodged by the international solicitors actinv for them all, but the second judge found that they had not been properly instructed and so the claim was an abuse of process.

What happened to the other 300 odd claims against ba that Peter Smith might have heard, but for his recusal ? It is not so clear.

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