Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bullstrode's Latin Phrasebook: Absens Haeres Non Erit

Absens Haeres Non Erit: Literally means that an absent person will not be an heir. In legal usage, the phrase refers to the principle that someone who is not present is unlikely to inherit a bounty.

As a firm believer in the veracity of this principle I spend a great deal of my time attending to the death-beds of ailing royals and wealthy but infirm socialites. In 1989 I famously travelled by air, land and sea for 3 days without sleep to be at the side of Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein only to find the reports of the gravity of his illness had been grossly overstated and the good prince was in fact only suffering a mild cold.

While my commitment to not running afoul of the doctrine of absens haeres non erit has yet to result in me being bequeathed any real money or hereditary titles, I am determined not to miss out such an opportunity simply because I was not present at the relevant person’s passing. You can't catch a fish without your line in the water!

Christmas Tidings

Learned friends,

Whatever your religious beliefs and views on the evils of codified law, Christmas is a time for:

a) Gathering around the Nordic Yule goat and observing traditional Episcopalian Christmas practice by singing songs of praise to Jesus Christ like "Good King Wenceslas" and "Whence Is That Lovely Fragrance Wafting";

b) Sitting down with your family and reading aloud the dissenting judgment of Lord Justice Denning (as he then was) in Candler v Crane, Christmas & Co [1951] 2 KB 164 where he bravely held that a relationship enlivening a duty of care to future investors must be one where the relevant accountant or auditor preparing the accounts was aware of the particular person and intended use of the accounts being prepared; and

c) Getting heavily inebriated at Breakfast and appearing in the Waverly Local Court dressed as Santa Clause while announcing your appearance as celebrity raconteur and barrister Mark “Touchdown” Holden.

Truly a glorious time of year!

Along with those time-honoured rituals, like so many hard-working Australians, this year I will spend midnight on each of the 12 nights of Christmas reciting the last 60 pages of Ben Affleck's screen play for the Christmas classic “Reindeer Games” on the steps of the Downing Centre. I find these public recitations are more than just an important social good, they are a great time for reflection on the year that’s been. 2010 was a tumultuous year for yours truly; from the bitter lows of my unlucky (and possibly unconstitutional) loss in Eden Monaro and the continued silence in the mainstream media about my failure to be elevated to the High Court to the highest of professional highs, beating Jonathan Sumption QC in a best-of-three-real-tennis-sets match at my local jeu de paume club and successfully avoiding the inland revenue for yet another year. Indeed a time to remember!

I hope that you also had a successful year on your path to lawmanship.

To you and yours, seasons greetings and all the best for a happy, healthy and jurisprudentially conservative 2011.

Your obt. svt.,

Bullstrode Whitelocke K.C.

May the road rise up to meet you.

May your harm be reasonably foreseeable.

May the Court registry staff shine warm upon your face,

and complaints about your fees soft upon your ears.

And until we meet again,

May Denning MR hold you in the palm of His hand.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A letter to Edward McGuire regarding 'Junior MasterLawman'

Dear Edward Joseph McGuire AM,

I write to you in your capacity as de facto programming director for Channel Nine, with what I consider to be the most exciting television opportunity since the second season of William Cosby’s ‘Kids Say the Darndest Things’.

With some considerable degree of interest, I have observed your ongoing stoush with your rivals at Channel 10 over the past few years. I applauded when you answered Channel Ten’s introduction of ‘Californication’ with Charlie Sheen’s irrepressible ‘Two and a Half Men’. I gasped at your audacity when Ten’s ‘Bondi Rescue’ found itself up against Charlie Sheen’s laugh-a-minute ‘Two and a Half Men’. And I marvelled at the way that you undermined Channel Ten’s gritty Australian drama series ‘Good News Week’ with yet another round of Charlie Sheen’s half hour long laugh-fest ‘Two and a Half Men’.

As I write this you are, however, possibly at your lowest ebb. Indeed, you may feel that no amount of cocaine and prostitute fuelled family comedy will undo the damage wrought on your brand by Channel Ten’s incredibly successful ‘MasterChef’ and ‘Junior MasterChef’ franchises.

Fear not, Mr McGuire. Unlike Ricky Ponting when he considers who to throw the ball to or the voters of Myanmar, you have options available to you.

You are all too familiar with concepts I have previously pitched to your station including “Sea Shanty Singing Bee with Uncle Bullstrode” and “Summer Clerks Gone Wild” but one option that is available to you may just change the paradigm of Australian television: ‘Junior MasterLawman[1]’. Twelve contestants, aged between 8 and 14 compete to win Australia’s most coveted young professional title ‘Junior MasterLawman’. Each week, contestants will be challenged to perform a feat of lawmanship, to be marked by a celebrity panel comprised of Matt Preston, Mike Whitney[2] and a full bench of the Supreme Court of New South Wales Court of Appeal. My thumbnail sketch of likely challenges, in increasing order of complexity/difficulty, include:
- completing an ASIC form 312;
- completing an ASIC form 484;
- drafting a design and construction contract in relation to a piece of major strategic infrastructure between the hours of 10pm and 5am on limited instructions and with a crippling hangover;
- entering into a sham divorce settlement to protect the contestant’s assets from the skeletal hand of the ATO, evading ATO process for more than 3 years and ultimately declaring bankruptcy, at all times without paying a cent towards public coffers;
- appearing in a High Court of Australia special leave application against Bret Walker SC;
- explaining the rationale behind, and operation of, the Personal Property Securities Act, with a particular focus on joint-venture cross charges.

A youngster discovers, too late, the dangers of the contra proferentem rule

One can instantly imagine families across the nation crowding around the television set every Sunday night, wondering if little Johnny will remember to include a subrogation clause or whether plucky little Jess from Launcestion will ever remember ambiguitas verborum patens nulla verificatione excluditur!

Obviously the merchandising possibilities are limitless. It is not unreasonable to expect glossy hard cover books entitled “Comfort Drafting with Justice Hammerschlag” or “Whitelocke and Preston: the Perfect Food and Deed Poll Pairings” to cover the coffee tables of a Nation that cannot get enough of the show or its unlikely, rapscallion stars.

You are a simple man, Mr McGuire, and no doubt your mind is spinning at the obvious commercial possibilities presented by Junior MasterLawman. I will allow you a moment to pause and reflect.

Agreed, an amazing idea.

If you are interested in pursuing this matter further, please contact me at the address below:

T Bullstrode Whitelocke KC
Mosman, NSW 2088

[1] © T Bullstrode Whitelocke 2010
[2] Mr Whitney has confirmed that he would ‘appear at the opening of an envelope’ and that he would be willing to wear his referee’s uniform from ‘Gladiators’ if required.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ask Bullstrode: What to wear to a Masquerade Ball

On the urging of the good people of Wollongong, I have decided to re-enliven my much loved advice column, featured in the Society Pages of the Illawarra Mercury in the 1980’s, entitled “Ask Bullstrode”. In its heyday, my column was the Blackstone’s commentaries of the self-help world, answering any and all questions posed by my readership on topics of importance to the people of the Illawarra, including relationship advice and, of course, statutory interpretation.

If you have any problemn that you simply cannot resolve, like that of young Jeremey Tompkins set out below, please do not hesitate to write me at Level 8, Albert Bathurst Piddington Chambers, 177 Phillip Street Sydney 2000, or at

Dear Mr Whitelocke [K.C.],

I have been invited to a 'Masquerade' Ball which is being held at Doltone House in a few weeks' time. Not having been to an event such as this before, and keenly aware of the need, as an Officer of the Court, to preserve my dignity and decorum, I wonder would you be so good as to give me some direction as to what I should wear?

Many thanks,

Jeremy Tompkins, Randwick.

Dear Jeremy,

Indeed a good, and important, question. Thank you for having the good sense to have sought my advice. I first attended a masquerade ball at Palazzo Labia in Venice in 1951, which was hosted by my dear friend and long time bocce rival Carlos “the Jackal” de Beistegui. This was a surprisingly riotous affair after which I was wrongly accused of all sorts of nefarious acts. Nevertheless, the tangible social and legal benefits, and the endless possibilities arising out, of being masked in public were made abundantly clear to me that fateful night.

Despite my profound enjoyment of this form of recreation in my youth, I have unfortunately not been to a masquerade ball since Lionel Murphy’s 40th birthday party in 1962. That soiree was billed as the party of the year. Emboldened by the spirit of the times, I foolishly attended disguised as the redoubtable 1920’s Country Party Leader Earle Page. As was all too predictable with the benefit of hindsight, I was immediately set upon and beaten viciously by environmentalists, hipsters and other Labor Party apparatchiks. Since that time, I have frankly been too scared to attend any event where I cannot be certain that such lowlifes are not in attendance (the other edge to the double edged sword of being masked in public).

I do remain, however, Australia’s foremost expert on appropriate dress at masquerade balls. In your case sir, as an officer of the court, common decency would demand that you strictly adhere to the dress code laid down by the 18th Century ducal court of Burgundy. As I’m sure you’re aware, this will mean you should wear a Van Dyke beard, a venetian carnival mask and have the rest of your costume made entirely from flax and pitch. Presumably this is what you were planning to wear in any case.

Kind regards,

Bullstrode Whitelocke K.C.
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