Sunday, 9 October 2011

A careful judgment

One day last week I was conducting an appeal hearing at the Employment Appeal Tribunal on the Victoria Embankment in London.  We were arguing about the rights and wrongs of a case I had conducted in the Birmingham employment tribunal nearly 18 months ago, when I was very firmly male.  The appeal was heard by a very bright and immensely likeable judge called Brian Langstaff  (or, more properly, Mr Justice Langstaff).

The odd thing was that when we were referring to things that had happenned in Birmingham, then they were things that 'Mr White' had done, whereas if it was anything I was saying last week, then it was a submission by 'Ms White'.  Confusing, or what?

My opponent was in fact another member of my own Chambers, and Chambers' equal opportunity officer.  She only got my gender wrong once.

When we came to the end of the case, HHJ Langstaff gave an oral judgment lasting most of an hour and danced between my two genders well into a double-figures amount of times....and did not put a foot wrong once.  At the end of the judgment he was kind enough to offer to change all the references to my new gender.  However, given that he had done such a lovely job of work, and I cannot see this ever arising again, the form of the judgment will certainly go into my 'memoir' file!

Perhaps that goes to illustrate why it has just been announced that HHJ Langstaff is, from January, to be the next President (that is, 'Head Judge') at the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

I believe that we are very well served by our judiciary.


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