Guilty of the Offence of Writing
On 18 January 2022, I attended the Supreme Court to support those in COVID-19 isolation having the right to vote. I was directed to sit in the Gallery – which I did.
This was evidently an important case. There were ten senior lawyers, including the Attorney General himself, representing the Government and the President, against our lone lawyer.
INTO THE ZONE.
I sat down in the Gallery and began to write – every word, every argument, every objection, and the judge’s ruling on each objection. Soon, my writing became automatic as I began to analyse the arguments in real time. I smiled as the familiar Dopamine hormone flowed – I was in the zone.
After writing eight pages, I was interrupted by a Court Marshall. I tried to remain in the zone while giving him some attention. “You can’t write”, he said, as I started the ninth page. The judge was ruling on an objection raised by the other side, and I did not want to miss it. I assumed he was commenting on my handwriting, so I simply shook my head in disagreement and continued.
OUT OF THE ZONE.
“You can’t write in here.” He insisted. The judge had sustained the objection, and our lawyer commenced speaking. I quickly held up the page to show him that I could, in fact, write “in here”. I was still in the zone, and hoped that my evidence of writing would cause him to leave me alone. Any hope of that ended when he finally gave a clear instruction. “You are not allowed to write in here.”
Life a speeding train hitting an unmoveable object, I tumbled out of the zone. I was upset. I was learning so much from these legal practitioners. He was insisting that I stop writing immediately. I complied. I also asked him to accompany me outside of the room to where we could discuss this matter.
OBEYING THE RULES.
“Why am I not allowed to take notes?” I asked. “Are you a lawyer?” He countered. I explained that I was not, but that I had represented myself in two cases in the High Court, and was representing myself in two cases before the Court of Appeal. “Are you a lawyer?” He asked again. “No, I am not a lawyer, but I am here to learn from lawyers” I explained as I showed him my notes,
“If you are not a lawyer, then you are not allowed to write in here.” He stated. “Why not?” I asked. “Because that is the rule, and if the judge looked up here and saw you writing, you would get in trouble.” He said. What could judges find so objectionable about someone taking notes, I thought. However, I had no intention of offending the judge, so, I agreed to return to my seat and write no more.
APPEALING THE RULES.
Upon re-entering, I noticed that there were three people seated. The person nearest to the door where the Court Marshall was stationed, was a lady – and she was writing. I asked the Court Marshall if there were exceptions to this rule. “She is a reporter”, he said. “And I am an Engineer”, I responded. “Only reporters and lawyers are allowed to write notes in here.” He declared.
“I would like to appeal this rule.” I said. “You can’t.” He responded. “Why not?” I asked. “Because I checked with my superiors before telling you to stop writing.” He answered. “Who are these superiors.” I asked. He gave me the name of his superior.
THE END OF LEARNING.
I decided to return to my seat and try to get back in the zone. It was useless. I am a read and write type of learner – I need to write, and then read what I have written, to facilitate my learning. When I am in the zone, I just have to write. I now had to try to remember what I was hearing, while trying to analyse that information. That is easier for auditory-dominant learners – but I am not an auditory-dominant learner.
Sitting there, I soon realised that I was wasting my time – and it was frustrating, because I wanted to stay, but I was not learning anything. So I left the room in search of this fellow to whom I could appeal this rule. I was told that he was in the basement of another building, and there was no contact number for this mysterious basement-dweller. So, I left the Supreme Court and returned to my office.
Why is writing notes in court such a major offence, that it must be actively stamped out by our Court Marshalls? What is the harm or inefficiency that this rule is intended to limit? I thought of O’Brien’s advice to Winston, in George Orwell’s book, 1984. “You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”
It seems that our judges have only given permission for lawyers and reporters to take notes in Court. If others want to take notes, they must request the Court Marshall, to request the Judge’s legal assistant, to request permission from the judge to be heard. If permission to be heard is granted, then they may then ask the judge for permission to take notes, and why they want to take notes. If the reason is not sufficiently persuasive, permission may be denied.