Litigation Lawyer Wish #1: Trial by Battle

In this previous instalment of LoyarBurokking for the Bar, K. Shanmuga made a few modest requests to improve the conditions of practice. Here is a  less modest and a touch outrageous suggestion that would improve the rate of case disposal in the courts.

There are many things we expect the Bar Council to do. Many are beyond its abilities, but we like to harass them about getting it done anyway. Here is a suggestion the Bar Council should consider proposing to the Courts to improve working conditions at the Bar and maybe even prompt a closer working relationship with the courts.

And before any of my friends in the Bar Council or relevant State Committee ask: Hells no, I’m not joining any task force or steering committee to implement this. I didn’t stand for election – you did. So get busy with some of this exciting suggestion that I have spent considerable time and effort crafting with regards to the mode of trial.

With the current judicial emphasis on expeditiousness over trivial ornaments like justice, adequate notice, fairness, reasonableness, mercy and common sense, the time honoured method of deciding a cases through a fair hearing, after listening to submissions and then producing a reasoned sensible written judgment is clearly unhelpful. To some judges, the process of justice is a hindrance to the disposal of a case. These judges tend to confuse between deciding and disposing a case. Deciding a case requires adherence to that time honoured method. Disposing a case requires thick skin and little sensitivity to the justice of the case and its litigants. As a Federal Court judge described it, ‘Rough justice.’ His Lordship didn’t define it but as they say in the gutter, Justice roughed is justice fluffed.

With the Chief Justice’s reforms moving speedily along without regard for human biology, psychology or justice, it is only a matter of time before the filing of a Statement of Claim or Statement of Defence will soon prove a hindrance. After all, under the Rules parties are given up to a month to file and exchange their pleadings. What an utter waste of time! You could finish a case in 3 weeks if the case management directions were punishing enough. Clearly the heart of these current reforms are the disposal of cases, the way you dispose rubbish. Quickly, cleanly, with minimum fuss.

When seen in that light, many lawyers, such as I, have thought the Chief Justice’s reforms half-hearted because his Lordship omitted a key initiative from the reforms i.e. an amendment to the court rules to provide for an even faster mode of trial. Many have appealed for the coin toss to decide cases over the calling of witnesses and tendering of evidence. It reduces the trial to the length of a coin toss. You could fit 20 cases in an hour.

The preferred method of deciding a case by some outstanding judges

The preferred method of deciding a case by some outstanding judges

Despite much to commend it, I am however against such an initiative. A coin toss would exclude the participation of lawyers in general save for preliminary objections about the quality and bona fide of the coin used for the judicial deliberations. Since we went to law school and are paid measly sums to do cases, this should at least be acknowledged by allowing counsel to participate in the process. For this reason, trial by battle or karaoke (or some other talent competition), should be used in place.

I am however not in favour of trial by karaoke because I do not sing very well. I can pose with a guitar and move my lips about but that is not going to win me a case against some of the talent I’ve seen at the Bar. And that goes for any other god-given talent because I have little except where it comes to consuming vast quantities of food and drink.

So in fairness, the method of resolution should involve less luck, considerably less brains and ultimately more brawn. Thinking requires time and space. Fists and punches do not. More importantly, exercise is good for our health. Staying alive from immediate danger always gets the blood pumping. Now put all this together and it is evident that trial by battle is the best method of resolution. And by battle, I mean the use of swords, katanas, lightsabers, or whatever that has to be manually operated and deadly. I’d even allow shurikens. If you can throw it that good, you should be able to use that skill in the interest of your client.

This is the only known sketch of trial by battle. Together with the gallows with an executed victim, it was made in 1249. (Source: National Archives, UK)

This is the only known sketch of trial by battle. Together with the gallows with an executed victim, it was made in 1249. (Source: National Archives, UK)

This has several benefits. If you as a lawyer lose, you don’t have to do another case and get caught up in the system! So go for death instead of those that simply paralyze. Because if you are both still alive, there may be another battle to do during taxation of costs. But if you win, then it’s time to hit the gym and your local blacksmith for some new weapon and armour upgrades. For the judge, they get the spectacle of a battle without there ever being tempted to descend into the arena. It could literally get them killed. And with such outstanding entertainment, judges are less likely fall asleep or start doodling cartoons during a trial or hearing.

With the video recording system we have, the court can repackage the trial and then sell the best of trials series and judges would certainly contribute to the voice over for the Court Room Battles DVD Limited Judicial Edition. And because there are several cameras in a courtroom, multi-view functionality is a given. The proceeds can go towards training judges to give better voice overs,  improving courtroom facilities especially for weapons and armour storage and training lawyers to apply more flair and flamboyancy to their battles.

And the client? They do not lose! In fact, it’s a win-win for everybody. Clients get their case decided quickly without any ‘interference’ by the judge. If they come to watch the case, they get to see the battle too. There is less room for corruption with the judges since the trial is out of their hands. Clients will no doubt get their DVD Judicial Edition complimentary (charges will apply for extra or signed copies by the Judge and winning counsel, if he still has his hands left). The cleaning industry will receive a big boost because of the bloodshed they have to clean after a case. The medical and funeral industry will receive a boost because there are numerous cases everyday. More lawyers will spend time in the gym instead of a computer. This will benefit their eyesight. And all this will go towards boosting the economic growth of our country.

I seriously hope and beseech the Bar Council to take this up to the Chief Justice before he retires. It is a good initiative that will benefit both the Bar and the Bench and go a great length towards addressing qualitative issues at the Bar, entertainment issues for the Bench and the disposing of litigant’s cases.

Fahri Azzat has taken up jogging, swimming and weight lifting in readiness of the Bar Council and Chief Justice adopting his proposal for the rejuvenation of trial. He knows little about weaponry so he figures he will just have to rely on his Two-Fingered Phoenix Fist of Death move to win his cases should his proposal come to pass. Don’t worry, he knows to use his awesome kung-fu technique wisely and only on the naughty.

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Posts by Fahri Azzat

Fahri Azzat practices the dark arts of the law. Although he enjoys writing and reading, he doesn't enjoy writing his own little biographies of himself. Like this one. He wished somebody else would do it for him. He has little taste in writing about himself in third person. He feels weird doing it. But the part he finds most tedious is having to pad up the lack of his accomplishments, or share some interesting facts about his rather uneventful life, as if there were some who found that oh-so-interesting; as if he were some famous person, like Michael Jackson. When he writes these biographies, the thought, 'Wei, Jangan Perasaan- ah!' lights up in his head. So he usually just lists what he got involved with, positions he held and blah, blah. But this time. Right here. Right this very moment. Uhuh. This one. This one right here. He's finally telling it like it is.

Posted on 7 June 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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4 Responses to Litigation Lawyer Wish #1: Trial by Battle

  1. Pingback: Litigation Lawyer Wish #3: A pleasant hearing | LoyarBurok

  2. Mian Kuang

    I propose dispute resolution by mud wrestling. Though not as expeditious as death by weapon, it's more titillating and entertaining. Reagan and Gorbachev did it to the tune of "Two Tribes".

  3. siewchin

    Fahri – your awesomeness gets better and better :))

    i totally support a slug-out at the trial.

    rather than the blizzard of papers filed that probably never ever get read anyway due to the 'bagi chance' principle so aptly presented in one of your previous write-up Fahri.

    and battling to the death is one way to cull the specie.

    he who remains standing becomes a judge.

    i reiterate – those who want justice, go to a whorehouse. those who wants to get f**ked, to to court.

  4. Pepper Lim

    Fantastic article!