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Jokes aside – The legendary wit of counsel and the bench

Saturday, 01 March 2008   (0 Comments)
Posted by: TaxFind™
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Jokes Aside – The Legendary Wit of Counsel and The Bench

In his book titled Advocacy author David Ross explains the qualities of a good advocate.One involves the use of humour: "You will be quick-witted.If you have a sense of humour you will never use it for its own sake.An advocate with this quality will use humour sparingly and to help win the case. You will never crack jokes.”

The wit of attorneys, lawyers and judges in courtrooms worldwide is legendary, but it seems that not everyone agrees that it’s necessarily a good thing.In ancient times Demosthenes admonished Athenian lawyers for using their wit and humour to win cases, rather than basing their arguments on the true facts that were presented to the court.

In an article published in The New York Times years ago, the author was of the opinion that too much frivolity in a courtroom by a person of authority was bound to create a situation where public interest would suffer."The principle which can be applied to determine how far it is allowable for a judge to exercise his gift of humour stands therefore thus: Nothing should be said by him which can in any way destroy the essential sense of seriousness which should pervade a court of justice, or introduce a temper of jocular familiarity, such as must infallibly breed contempt.” Now, isn’t that a mouthful?

Be it as it may, the wit of opposing counsel and repartee between counsel and the bench is legendary.A patent attorney from the law firm Adams & Adams told the following stories to illustrate the point.In one case a power failure left the courtroom in darkness.The counsel said to the judge: "I hope this does not reflect on the nature of my argument”

Where upon the judge swiftly retorted: "Well, this is your opportunity to shed some light on the matter.”In another case the subject matter involved equipment on a floating oil rig off the coast of Mossel Bay.

An expert witness was explaining the principle of a deep sea anchor - known in the field as "the deadman” - using a bot tle of sparkling water.Once he had finished his evidence, he opened the bottle of water and drank it.The judge said: "Let the record note that the witness has just drunk the deadman.”

Sometimes judges even refer to the power of humour to substantiate their arguments.In 2005 the renowned case of maverick T-shirt manufacturer, Laugh It Off vs Sabmark (known as the Black Label, White Guilt case), was finally heard before the Constitutional Court.Concurring in the judgment, Judge Albie Sachs said the issue was not whether the court thought the lampoons on the T-shirts were funny but whether Laugh It Off should be free to issue the challenge.In his view, the expression of humour was not only permissible, but necessar y for the health of democracy.

But, jokes aside: The renowned economist John Maynard Keynes had the following to say about tax: "The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that carries any reward." And the following fictitious dictionary entry read: Intaxication (n.): Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realise it was your money to start with.

Source: By TaxTALK



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