Sunday, September 23, 2012

Legal Laughs

Judge Henry Cecil Leon (1902 - 1976), who wrote under the pen name Henry Cecil, served as a County Court Judge in England from 1949 until 1967.  Judge Leon was a very prolific author turning out one comic novel after the other about lawyers, judges and the legal system

The book which I just finished, Brief Tales From the Bench (1968), is a collection of comic short stories told from the first person perspective of a County Court Judge.  Of the eight stories in the collection, four are said to be “Embellished but based on an actual case.”  The remaining four are fiction.

“Contempt of Court” is about how the Judge can hold a man in contempt of Court for saying the exact same things about the Judge that the Judge’s wife says about him.  Another involves a student whose father refuses to pay the schoolmaster tuition because his son has learned how to be a criminal at the school.  In “Perjury” “Judge Cecil” has to determine which witness is lying.  “Chef’s Special” involves a guest suing a hotel for breach of contract when he receives the “Fawlty Towers” treatment.  “Retrial” involves a convicted shoplifter suing the store which prosecuted him for damages for liable.  “The Hidden Money” involves a man who tried to hide assets from his wife during a divorce.  “The Truth” is another case in which the Judge must determine which witness is truthful.  “Made To Measure” involves a man with very eccentric tastes who refuses to pay for a custom made suit.

Judge Henry Cecil Leon

Here is my favorite quote from the book: “People are so very polite, not to say obsequious to judges that there is a danger that a judge may think he is just as important out of court as he is in court, when in fact he is not.  It is the office which is important, not the man.  This is easy to state, but not always so easy, for an average person like myself, to remember.”

The humor (or should I say “humour”) is very British.   The stories are very amusing and this provides light entertainment with a lesson.  The Bad Catholic gives Tales From the Bench three gavels out of five.  

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