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Jolyon Maugham QC suffers backlash on Twitter after calling High Court judge ‘pro-Government’

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Campaigning silk defends comments after criticism from fellow lawyers, including The Secret Barrister

High-profile QC Jolyon Maugham has caused a stir among fellow lawyers by labelling a High Court judge “pro-Government” ahead of a Brexit legal challenge.

Tweeting from the account of the Good Law Project, which Maugham founded in 2017 to pursue political cases, the crusading silk warned supporters that prospects for his latest case may be rocky due to the identity of the judge deciding it.

Maugham said that the judicial review challenge had already been rejected by Mr Justice Swift, who “has a reputation for being very Government minded”. Reviewing Swift’s decision will be Mr Justice Supperstone, described by Maugham as “the only Judge so far as we are aware whose reputation for being pro-Government rivals that of Judge Jonathan Swift”.

The calling out of Swift and Supperstone defied an “unwritten rule in the legal profession that lawyers do not say this stuff in public”. But Maugham pointed out that practitioners advise clients about the reputation of judges all the time, asking “why is it inappropriate to say publicly what is said privately?”.

He concluded by calling on Supperstone to “defy his reputation” and do the right thing in the case, signing off “JMQC”.

Other lawyers were horrified by the breach of etiquette. Greg Callus of 5RB Chambers responded: “This is corrosive and ill-judged and should be deleted”, while Sean Jones QC of 11KBW said: “Please don’t do this”. Others noted that judges do not have a right of reply to allegations about their impartiality.

The Secret Barrister added:

But Adam Wagner of Doughty Street Chambers appeared to defend Maugham, agreeing that the political leanings of certain judges are well known to lawyers.

The criticism stirred Maugham into further Twitter action in defence of his position, saying “it is my belief that the rule of law is weakened rather than strengthened if we treat certain issues as not suitable for public discussion”. He also brushed off comparisons with the Daily Mail’s headline attacking judges as “Enemies of the People” as “facile and unworthy of any thoughtful and well-intentioned critic”, insisting that his observations were “fair observations with analytic value”.

Any critics are welcome to complain to the Bar Standards Board, he added. The thread begins here.

The Good Law Project has raised £33,000 in crowdfunded donations for a judicial review challenge to raise the political cost of a “no-deal” Brexit. It says that emergency powers given to pharmacists to vary prescriptions in case of medicine shortages are unlawful. Swift slapped the case down at the first hurdle on 15 March, but a further hearing took place before Supperstone earlier today. A decision is expected on Friday.

In December, the company struck a major blow against Brexit when it persuaded the EU Court of Justice to confirm that the UK has the unilateral right to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit. It has more recently suffered a reverse in an attempt to force taxi firm Uber to pay more tax.

The 2019 Legal Cheek Chambers Most List

95 Comments

Anonymous

Deary me.

(11)(0)

Mr Poppins

Why has no-one done the Joly-holiday song yet?

Did it get deleted and I missed it?

(1)(1)

Anonymous

It’s a jolly holiday with Jolyon…

Pretending that he’s working class…

He knows better than the ordi-naries…

Perhaps he’s just up his own ass…

(14)(1)

Anonymous

I’mmmmmmm…..
Supperstonefragilisticexpialidocious
Even though my politics are really quite atrocious!

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Don’t run a personal injury claim east of Leicester

(5)(0)

Anonymous

The judges east of Leicester have common sense?

(2)(0)

Just Anonymous

Well, no. We lawyers do not know the political leanings of judges. We may think we do, but that isn’t the same thing.

What happens is that one case goes badly. This creates the suspicion the judge is Claimant/Defendant friendly depending on whether we’re acting for the Defendant/Claimant.

Confirmation bias then kicks in. Information which supports our suspicion is accepted. Information to the contrary is forgotten.

So in the absence of proper scientific evidence, I think such opinions are best kept to ourselves.

(59)(10)

Anonymous

Swift was a barrister very recently. Most current silks will have met him and be able to accurately comment on his leanings. That isn’t the debate – it is whether this should be done in public where the debate lies. I say yes.

(19)(26)

Anonymous

The person may not know for sure, but it can be fair comment if a judge makes their political leanings seem obvious.

Most judges are conservative and pro-establishment.

(15)(16)

Anonymous

*cough*

If I may just counter your prejudices with some actual facts…

R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Leaving the European Union [2018] AC 61

R (Unison) v Lord Chancellor [2017] 3 WLR 409

R (National Council for Civil Liberties) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2018] 3 WLR 1435

(26)(4)

Anonymous

*cough*

Exceptions that prove the rule (and your prejudices, and actual facts)

Its funny – people know that most judges are pro-establishment and conservative, yet get all hot under the collar when its spoken about.

(10)(15)

Anonymous

And where is the evidence to support your position?

Oh wait, you haven’t provided any.

I wonder why that is…

Anonymous

The cases you provided are evidence – the fact that you had to trawl through the internet and that was all you could come up with. You must have ignored a lot of pro-establishment and conservative decisions. Confirmation bias.

Read bailii for EWHC and CA decisions – you’ll see a stream of pro-establishment and conservative decisions.

Anonymous

I notice you still haven’t provided any evidence to support your position.

Congratulations, you’re now in the same category as homeopathists, flat-earthers and anti-vaxxers.

Talk, talk, talk, but when invited to provide evidence to support your claims, you just can’t do it.

Anonymous

What you haven’t noticed is that evidence was provided, although perhaps not the evidence you wanted to see. Ignoring evidence you don’t want to see looks to be a common theme.

How’s your bailii coming along?

Anonymous

Ah, the old trick that ‘evidence was provided but you just can’t see it.’

The same trick religion uses to explain why god appears to be completely undetectable by human science.

Also completely useless when everyone can see your posts and can thus see that you’ve provided again.

Try again.

Anonymous

Yes, I’ve provided evidence again. No, I’m not God.

How’s bailii coming along?

Anonymous

Ah and where precisely is this non-existent evidence you’ve provided? Behind the tooth fairy? Next to the yeti? In the stomach of the Loch Ness Monster?

Anonymous

Still ignoring the evidence that most judges are pro-establishment and conservative I see.

How’s bailii coming on?

Anonymous

Happy to consider it when you actually provide some. When might that be?

Anonymous

You’ve already seen it.

Read that bailii yet?

Anonymous

Ah yes, his illusion evidence you keep claiming to have provided. Remind us what that was again?

Anonymous

Its in bailii if you’ve forgotten – us can remind themselves of it there.

Anonymous

Ah bailii. That site full of judges doing their jobs and deciding cases fairly based on the evidence before them. Perhaps you can give us an example of case decided wrongly and unfairly due to political bias?

Anonymous

Ah, you’ve discovered bailii at last.

Us can find a case for yourselves, there’s plenty to choose from.

Anonymous

Ah, so you don’t know of any cases decided wrongly and unfairly due to political bias?

Anonymous

Yes, I do, that’s my point.

Anonymous

Share one then.

Anonymous

In bailii

Anonymous

But isn’t that the usual way with this extreme ideology of the social justice warriers…”I feel..” and conveniently appealing for public mass support when the usual processes do not turn up the “right result” and yet everyone else is a facist for daring to voice an opposing opinion. Very convenient. Of course judges are going to be for “the establishment” regardless of the political persuasion of the government…the question is have they determined the law correctly. We go on the rule of law and due process – the only reason any lawyer might even have employment. This is symptomatic of what is happening in parliament right now and we have by a long mile yet to see the repercussions of what is in reality nothing but activism.

Anonymous

Although Maugham himself is being castigated for expressing an opinion, or perhaps breaking an unwritten rule.

I agree that most judges are pro-establishment, but not that they have to be, or necessarily should be. You’re absolutely right that the most important thing is that they uphold the law. But it if there are judges whose views might distort their judgement it is important that this is discussed.

Anonymous

I’ll share hundreds – they’re in bailii.

Bored

Jesus Christ just shut up both of you

Anonymous

Either get it on or shut up.

Anonymous

Many arrives late to argument. Finds Jesus Christ. Other man hopes to see sex but doesn’t.

Job Five

More to the point, read the Politics of the Judiciary by JAG Griffith, he covers this in depth and with considerable detail, with reference to cases and whole streams of common law rules “invented” or “interpreted” by judges to reflect their conservative (small c) and establishment leanings.

Instructions to Joly-boy

“why is it inappropriate to say publicly what is said privately?”

Apply this to many other situations.

Reflect.

(36)(1)

Anonymous

He’s just a knob, isn’t he?

(36)(24)

Anonymous

‘The Good Law Project’ – a subjective left leaning interpretation of ‘good’ there.

(21)(3)

Anonymous

“they are not intended to stir public hatred or undermine the rule of law”

Yeah, right mate

They’re as populist as the Mail’s Enemies of the People schtick

Let’s face it: resolution is in sight, some form of Brexit fudge is a nailed on certainty, your 15 mins of fame are nearly up, you won’t make the High Court bench, and you’ve got to keep the party going for another few years until you can become some sort of woke peer appointee

Playing with fire, criticising judges personally

(27)(13)

Anonymous

Yes unfortunately for him the ill-advised frequent public outbursts will stop a high court appointment.

(7)(1)

Anonymous

But not necessarily unfortunate for the rest of us!

(12)(0)

Anonymous

If true, that says a lot about the judicial selection process.

(4)(5)

Anonymous

A lot of good.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Not if people are blocked from the judiciary for not keeping their opinions to themselves.

Anonymous

Brave though

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Earnest, hang wringing barristers alert!

As if you don’t get Judges who slavishly rubber stamp everything the government asks for.

(7)(1)

Ciaran Goggins

Secret Barrister is plod shill.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

*cough*

If I may just counter your prejudices with some actual facts…

R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Leaving the European Union [2018] AC 61

R (Unison) v Lord Chancellor [2017] 3 WLR 409

R (National Council for Civil Liberties) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2018] 3 WLR 1435

(6)(1)

Anonymous

*cough*

Exceptions that prove the rule (and your prejudices, and actual facts)

Its funny – people know that most judges are pro-establishment and conservative, yet get all hot under the collar when its spoken about.

(1)(5)

Anonymous

And where is the evidence to support your position?

Oh wait, you STILL haven’t provided any.

Despite multiple invitations.

I wonder why that is…

(3)(2)

Anonymous

The cases you provided are evidence – the fact that you had to trawl through the internet and that was all you could come up with. You must have ignored a lot of pro-establishment and conservative decisions. Confirmation bias.

Read bailii for EWHC and CA decisions – you’ll see a stream of pro-establishment and conservative decisions.

(3)(2)

Anonymous

I notice you still haven’t provided any evidence to support your position.

Congratulations, you’re now in the same category as homeopathists, flat-earthers and anti-vaxxers.

Talk, talk, talk, but when invited to provide evidence to support your claims, you just can’t do it.

Anonymous

What you haven’t noticed is that evidence was provided, although perhaps not the evidence you wanted to see. Ignoring evidence you don’t want to see looks to be a common theme.

How’s your bailii coming along?

Anonymous

I notice you still haven’t provided any evidence to support your position despite such evidence being requested multiple times.

Congratulations, you’re now in the same category as homeopathists, flat-earthers and anti-vaxxers.

Talk, talk, talk, but when invited to provide evidence to support your claims, you just can’t do it.

Anonymous

What you haven’t noticed is that evidence was provided, although perhaps not the evidence you wanted to see. Ignoring evidence you don’t want to see looks to be a common theme.

How’s your bailii coming along?

Anonymous

Still talk, talk, talk.

But can you provide evidence that judges ‘slavishly rubber stamp everything the government asks for.’

Multiple requests now, and still nothing.

Anonymous

What you haven’t noticed is that evidence was provided, although perhaps not the evidence you wanted to see. Ignoring evidence you don’t want to see looks to be a common theme. Its not going to be easy to successfully argue against the fact that most judges are pro-establishment and conservative, you’ll need to do much better.

How’s your bailii coming along?

Anonymous

You claimed that judges ‘slavishly rubber stamp everything the government asks for.’

You were given three high level counter-examples demonstrating the precise opposite.

And the evidence in support of your claim…remind us what that was again?

Anonymous

No I didn’t, you seem to have a problem getting your facts right.

I said most judges were pro-establishment and conservative, which is true.

If you’ve forgotten the evidence, read back through the comments.

How’s bailii – you read up on it yet?

Anonymous

Ah and now you’ve started lying. Forgot about your comment at 6:30 did you?

Hurts doesn’t it when you post nonsense, get called on it and can’t justify it.

Anonymous

Except it wasn’t my comment at 6.30. Get your facts right if you’re gong to accuse people of lying.

You are an expert on posting unjustifiable nonsense.

Go to bed and take bailii with you.

Anonymous

Aww. You’ve realised you can’t defend your nonsense and now you’re pretending you never said it. So sad.

Anonymous

It wasn’t me at 6.30.

Bed
Bailii

Anonymous

To Anon @ 8.59pm: that’s not what ‘the exception that proves the rule’ means.

Since it’s a legal maxim – exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis – lawyers ought to get it right.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

It was right.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Is it just me that can’t stand this guy?

(14)(3)

Anonymous

I don’t know, but some people let the fact that they don’t like him cloud their judgement.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Lol at reporting judges to the JCIO!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

If only Lady Hale got the case. So left, she’s considered right.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

What! Don’t you know judge holds political views? Never – the very idea is outrageous. I can quote 3 cases which prove it!

(3)(1)

Anonymous

Yes! And I’d utterly refute the ridiculous suggestion that most barristers come from conservative backgrounds! And that those who successfully apply for the judiciary tend to follow this rule!

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Oh my goodness, so many here have outed themselves as not being lawyers.

All lawyers who have a court heavy practice talk about which judges are biased and in what way they are biased. If you deny this, you are clearly not a practising lawyer.

(5)(3)

Anonymous

Yes, you and Maugham are right in that respect. The only thing I would add is that some commenters may be lawyers in denial.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Or indeed that some commenters may be obsequious lickspittles who think sucking up and agreeing with the conservative line is the way to advance in this profession.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

Yes – you are quite honestly a rubbish barrister if you don’t take into account a judge’s probably or definite prejudices in your submissions. It is your job to overcome any preconceptions the judge may have in order to win the case for your client.

You realise this within a year or two post pupillage. If you are going about convinced that just the glory of the law and your balanced tone will win the day, you aren’t doing the best job you can.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Its the judge’s job not to hold preconceptions or prejudices though. If they do, they need to be called out, not challenged on the clients time.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Well yes, but back in the real world all human beings have their own set of preconceptions. And many judges are complete arseholes.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

If he thinks that judges hold views which might prejudice their decision-making he’s right to say so before any hearing.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Jog on Jolyon you attention-seeking child.

(5)(2)

The Entire High Court Bench

I’m sure the nation’s tax avoiders will be beating a path to Jolyon’s door, knowing how well-disposed towards him the judiciary will now be. I think we can predict from this fact that Maugham is planning an exit. The sooner the better.

(3)(3)

Anonymous

If judges become ill-disposed to him it kind of proves his point.

(4)(2)

Anonymous

Well, given quite a few of the Judges are massively pro government I imagine after Jolyon has pointed this out they will be subconsciously trying to prove they are not.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Will be interesting to see if this happens, and if it does whether those who are coy about criticising judges then speak out.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Jog on, Jolyon.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

“Judge Jonathan Swift”? “Judge Michael Supperstone”?

That’s ‘Mr Justice Swift’ and ‘Mr Justice Supperstone’.

Can’t help but suspect that JMQC, who undoubtedly knows the correct form of address, intentionally got it wrong in an effort to undermine…

(7)(0)

Anonymous

Don’t see anything wrong with it, especially as he wasn’t in court at the time.

(1)(2)

Anonymous

Aye. Thing is, Jolyon is trying to speak to normal people, not just lawyers.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

So the news, which is for ‘normal’ people, should refer to a decision of the Supreme Court given by ‘Judge Brenda Hale’?

No, the news should refer to a judgment by Lady Hale.

I take your point to the extent that JMQC could have referred to ‘Sir Jonathan Swift’, but if a person has a title it ought to be used correctly.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Judge Brenda Hale would be better.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

Jolyon Maugham has his detractors, but for me there is no doubt that he is a player.

If a manager was so inclined, he could fine him a couple of week’s wages to instil greater discipline, here and there, but if you want to score goals, you need him in the team.

He also brings people through the turnstiles…he is not preparing an exit with these pro government comments on twitter, he is putting an extra 10,000 on the gate.

He is an innovator and one to watch, imo.

(2)(2)

Anonymous

Jolyon Maugham – the Mario Balotelli of twitter

(1)(0)

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