Friday 9 November 2018

High Court Drama - Day 2

Flectere si nequeo superos
Acheronta movebo

Welcome to the Bureau court reporting service and extracts from day two of this gripping drama.
The morning was dominated by legal arguments  over defence submissions which, after lengthy consideration,  the judge rejected. Falling back on what he called the precedent of Anglo-Saxon common sense rather than the common law - muttering to himself that both were identical - he ruled that the defendant was to be referred to exclusively as Mr. Textusa, occupation: a hermit.
On the defendant's application to be a litigant-in-person the judge held that the normal right to do so faced "enormous difficulties". How, he asked, can the majesty and intellectual subtlety of the law, or even its dignity,  be expressed by a person wearing a two-foot square cardboard box over his  head? 
He rejected the national security argument for such a measure but accepted that, as a hermit, a human rights argument could be made [see the U.S 1970s "smack a midget for Norm case" - Short People .V. Randy Newman, a singer] in his favour on the grounds that dealing with real people rather than screens might induce health problems.  He reserved judgement.   

In the matter of Townsend .V. Textusa.

The  Lord MisKlaudie of Dee, sitting without a jury.
3.30 PM. A large LED screen has been set up visible to both the court and the noticeably  crowded and expectant  public gallery. Mr Llewelly Davis QC, counsel for Mr Townsend, is taking the court through on-screen material produced under discovery rulings by Mr Textusa. Our extract starts some way in.
Judge: A what?
Mr Davis: A blogger, my Lord. As you can see on the screen, Mr Textusa is not a believer in using one word where forty seven will do. In examining  this material, in fact, we have been handicapped by the logistical challenge it presents.
[Mr Davis, it is becoming clear has a way with understatement designed to intrigue judges or perhaps provoke them. His hair is dark and his refined, thin eyebrows are eloquent when, in the middle of describing matters, he raises one of both of them; they act as a running commentary on his own words. He has won many cases.]
Judge:  This one seems inordinately long.
Mr Davis: This blog-post, as these things are referred to, took us thirty two minutes to read. It consists of 38, 500 words.
Judge:  What on earth is it about? I can't make head or tail of it, and I'm a judge. Is it a report on an expedition or something?
Mr Davis: Only in a sense, my Lord.
Judge: Then what is it? A commentary on the Evolution of Species? 
Mr Davis: It is a shopping list, my Lord.
[Turmoil in court. A small number of people stamp their feet, a hooray at the back shouts "Bravo!"]
[the judge admonishes and warns public]
Judge:  Please continue Mr Davis.
Mr Davis: It is indeed a shopping list, my Lord, which the defendant posted publicly, whether by accident or design.
Judge: How many items?
[Mr Lewis's left eyebrow, the one visible to the public gallery, is in the "up" position] 
Mr Davis: [in measured tones] Four, my Lord. I  - 
[His words are lost in further uproar; under the judge's sharp eye, order is rapidly restored]
Mr Davis: [continuing] Yes, four, my Lord. They are a box of muesli, a tube of Germolene ointment, a copy of the Fortean Times and some chicken.
Judge: How many words again?
Mr Davis: Thirty eight thousand, five hundred. My learned assistant M/S Oliver has turned to the  Marquis de Caulaincourt's With Napoleon in Russia and informed me this morning that the French army's entire supply requisition list for the invasion of that country in 1812 was only half the length of this post. [pause] I thought you might be interested, my Lord.
Judge: Mr Davis, we must endeavour to be totally fair to this defendant. It is not strictly relevant but perhaps you could give us some insight into how it has swelled to that length.
Mr Davis: I think it is relevant, my Lord, because it gives us some insight into the background of the person who is making these most unusual claims against Mr Townsend. It may help us in our task.
Judge: Go on.
Mr Davis: Mr Textusa is prone to diversion in the way that the authors of the Anatomy of Melancholy or The Compleat Angler were, my Lord, but perhaps with not quite the same charming effect. There is a lengthy disquisition on the production of muesli in the list, for example, dealing with its history and its possible use as an improved form of water-boarding by security services, that sort of thing.
The journey to the pharmacist for the Germolene is made extremely lengthy by some of Mr Textusa's preoccupations, which depend perhaps excessively on Wikipedia and the 1998 Childrens' Encyclopedia,  including a section on whether road maps are trustworthy documents. In Mr Textusa's  opinion, exhaustively expressed, they are not. He is particularly troubled by cul-de-sacs, my Lord, which in his view should not exist; likewise with railway maps, which he believes are definitely not accurate, with malice aforethought. As a result, of course, Mr Textusa, on one of his rare forays out, suffers intense trauma at level crossings, about which he also writes in a prolix, though guarded, manner.   And then there is the question of the shoes...
Judge: [faintly, wearily] Shoes?
Mr Davis: Mr Textusa's visits to shops and so forth are complicated by a certain literalness in his approach to life. [One eyebrow, the one facing the judge, is rising] He insists that his Rocky Mountain High walking shoes are just that and, therefore, cannot be used for anything but walking. This leads him into certain  difficulties -
[the public gallery is completely hushed, rapt -]
Judge: In what way?
[- as Mr Lewis's other eyebrow begins to climb. His voice, however, remains heroically steady]
Mr Lewis: Following his own ruthless logic he always takes them off when he gets on a bus. This has -
[the public gallery is stirring]
- led to repeated difficulties and, naturally, to very long descriptions of them online. Sometimes, on certain bus routes, there can be trouble.  On June 21 2018, for example, his removal of shoes led to schoolchildren passengers on their way home booing and holding their noses and shouting what'sthatstink?  whoo'sthepoxyweirdo? and -
Judge: [yet again has to admonish the public gallery while Mr Lewis, with a look of quiet satisfaction on his face, adjusts his watch] That's enough detail, thank you Mr Lewis.
Mr Lewis: [is not to be stopped] In addition he tells us that running shoes must only be used for running and as a result, in another seven thousand words describes how -
Judge: Mr Lewis -
Mr Lewis: [pleadingly] Can I ask the court if they can guess what Mr Textusa wears on his occasional railway journeys, having removed his Rocky Mountain Highs? On trains, my Lord?
Judge:  By no means; I think we have the picture. What was the last item on the shopping list?
Mr Lewis: Line 3401, I believe. It is Kentucky Fried Chicken, giant family freezer pack.
Judge: And Kentucky Fried Chicken is?
Mr Lewis: Broadly what it says, my Lord. It forms the majority component of Mr Textusa's diet but it also has a wider significance in this case which, if we have time, I will enlarge upon. 
Judge: Yes, but what distinguishes it from other chicken? Can it be shot?
Mr Lewis: The distinction  is best summarised by saying that it is eaten out of buckets.
Judge: Buckets? Buckets?
Mr Lewis: With the hands. Hence the denotation "finger lickin' good" [deadpan] 
Judge: I think the joke making has gone too far this time, Mr Lewis.
Mr Lewis: I am in absolute earnest, my Lord. I do not believe they are shot, no, not even in America. Among some sectors of the population there, and particularly in  the UK, it is considered a delicacy -
Judge: I've never seen it on the menu at Wiltons. Have you?
Mr Lewis: No my Lord. But if I could continue, because it is a matter of some importance in this case -
Judge: Is it?
Mr Lewis:  Indeed there are motorway service stations -
Judge: [clearly growing tired] What is a motorway service station?
Mr Lewis: -
Judge: It doesn't matter. I was just being a judge.
Mr Lewis: Many motorway service stations in the UK encourage relaxed family inter-actions by letting groups  consume the chicken together out of large cardboard or plastic buckets. They gnaw on it. [ invisible dagger is slowly raised]
Judge: Thank you Mr Lewis.
Mr Lewis: This has considerable significance for the case. Each service station has a little section, a kind of reservation, for members of the less discriminating, or economically disadvantaged, or simply obese,  parts of the population. Here, and in store-rooms at the rear of the building they keep a number of [the dagger is plunged] Big Round Tables, known as Chick'n Lick'n Tables at which they sup and on which  the defendant endured traumatic suffering in the past -
Judge: Mr Lewis -
[but the public gallery has broken into loud and spontaneous applause and foot-stamping. Mr Lewis brushes some invisible dust off the sleeve of his Gieves suit and makes a microscopic hint of a bow to the public galleries -
Court Usher: All stand!
[Court adjourned]