The last laugh
Folklaw was allowed out of the office to mix with their readership a little over a week ago, and attended Lawyers Weekly’s inaugural, and hopefully annual, The Last Laugh lunch, held at The American Club in Sydney on 7 December.
Folklaw yields to the comedic stylings of Justice Keith Mason, president of the NSW Court of Appeal, and Paul McDermott, ringmaster of the ABC’s defunct The Sideshow, who between them managed to weave wit and vulgarity (respectively, obviously) to appeal to the high- and low-brow delight of 200 of Sydney’s legal fraternity and LexisNexis interlopers. The 2007 AFI award winner for best short animation, McDermott (who seems much taller in person), shared a treatise on the love between a Spartan boy and his goat, while Justice Mason exercised greater discretion to extol the virtues of well-timed humour, irony and sarcasm in judgments — the avant-garde of law reform.
Things to note for next year’s attendees:
1. Cover your mouth when you cough, or maybe don’t turn up at all to avoid the public humiliation of having McDermott chastise you for being a little bit ill at a social function. Not that Folklaw could be sure that the offender didn’t actually cover their mouth, but the sound of a sickly gust of wind (and possibly phlegm) passing through the air was enough to attract accusing glances from the MC, and an impolite lesson in etiquette.
2. Turn your mobile phone off. The cost of attending the event pales into insignificance relative to your own hourly rates, and you may well miss an important business call, but we can confidently add comedians to the list of professions (mentioned in issue 367) of people to not piss off with a ringing mobile phone in an enclosed space in which they are speaking.
3. Train your bladder to wait for a few hours, or risk bringing your discreet departure for an ill-timed rest break to the attention of the MC. You may find it less humiliating to lose control of your waters quietly in your seat, while everyone else is pissing themselves laughing.
Deliver us from Jerry Springer
A television broadcast of a musical based on the US talk show hosted by Jerry Springer, which referred to Jesus as “a little bit gay” and depicted Eve attempting to fondle the Son of God’s genitals, has escaped a lawsuit brought under Britain’s blasphemy laws, Reuters reported.
In 2005 the BBC broadcast Jerry Springer — The Opera, prompting a record number of complaints, demonstrations and debate, as well as attempts by the Christian Voice group to prosecute BBC director-general Mark Thompson and the musical’s producer, Jon Thoday. An initial decision by a district judge dismissed the group’s case, and earlier this month Britain’s High Court also dismissed an appeal, saying that the show did not contravene any blasphemy laws.
“The play had been performed regularly in major theatres in London for a period of nearly two years without any sign of it undermining society or occasioning civil strife or unrest,” the ruling stated.
Well, Folklaw is prepared to speculate that the theatre-going public is already morally debased, and surely the televised version of the show had the capacity to corrupt the untainted minds of a television audience, hitherto protected from West End-debauchery such as Blackbird, Equus and The Blue Room.
Petty profanity prosecution
If you can’t safely swear at your own toilet, what can you swear at? Metro.co.uk reported that a Pennsylvanian woman has been charged with disorderly conduct and is facing up to 90 days in prison for swearing at her toilet.
Dawn Herb, 33, was cited for using obscene language in a way that causes “public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm” after an off-duty police officer heard her let fly with the whole gamut of expletives when her toilet overflowed. The officer, patrolman Patrick Gilman, who lived a few houses away from Herb, called authorities to complain about the verbal diarrhoea spouting forth from Herb as she expressed alarm at the rising tide emanating from her toilet. Gilman called out to Herb, “watch your mouth”, but Herb ignored his advice and redirected her torrent at him. Gilman then called a colleague who issued Herb with a citation.
After the hearing, the mother-of four’s lawyer, Barry Dyller, said: “The laws cannot require us to speak eloquently, in good taste or an inoffensive fashion. We are allowed to speak colourfully and that is absolutely constitutionally protected.” Dyller, who is representing Herb on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union said, “we’re allowed to swear at each other. It doesn’t mean we should, but we are allowed to, and the government and the law cannot stick its nose into these private matters”.
Folklaw would rather not stick their nose anywhere near this awfully messy matter.
Underpants key to hex removal
If you think your mother-in-law might have put a hex on you, collect one spoon, one egg, a sample of your urine and a pair of your underpants (preferably separate), and hunt down the nearest Cypriot witch prepared to flout the law and defraud you of $15,700. If it doesn’t work, have the witch arrested and jailed for 20 days. Folklaw thinks it’s worth the risk.
Agence France-Presse has reported that a 69-year-old woman in Cypress had been jailed for 20 days for “practising sorcery” in identical circumstances, after offering to break a “lethal curse” with the use of the aforementioned items, for a CY£5,500 ($15,700) fee. The woman had convinced the man that he would die in his sleep within 22 days if the spell was not lifted, and that his estranged wife and mother-in-law were responsible for placing the hex on him.
“Once CY£500 exchanged hands, some kind of ceremony took place using the specific objects mentioned,” a court ruling said. “According to the plaintiff, at the end of it, hairs wrapped around a nail were found inside an egg to prove a spell had been cast against him … It was then the plaintiff was rudely awakened and realised he was being made a fool of and filed a complaint to police.”
Cheesy, greasy palms?
Next time you’re accused of speeding through Mosman in your Lexus, consider bribing the local constabulary with soft cheese — it seems to hit the spot with police in the Campagnia region of Italy. The Italian Interior Ministry has said that four officers have been arrested and five more are under investigation for demanding mozzarella bribes from motorists, Ananova.com recently reported.
A ring of cheese-addled police officers are accused of stopping cheese delivery vans in the region, famous for its mozzarella, and obliging them to hand over quantities of their goods in transit. The officers are thought to have procured the cheese for their private consumption, rather than supplying a black market for dairy products.
Folklaw wonders if police on Sydney’s northern beaches may prefer Sardinian pastry filled with fresh ricotta and sultanas, or oven-roasted suckling pig from Pilu at Freshwater. By all means try offering pig to a police officer, and let us know how you go.
That DLA Christmas cheer
DLA Piper hasn’t completely bypassed the festive season this year, but it’s making sure that amid all the Christmas mayhem staff don’t forget that they still work for a law firm. As reported on website RollOnFriday, employees of the firm received a Christmas email from DLA Piper management last week entitled “The True Meaning of Christmas”. It read:
Tis the season to be jolly
To think of mistletoe and holly
And amongst the Christmas thrills
Don’t forget the bills, bills, bills
Words we’d like to see judicially defined
Definition: “(say ‘yoboh) noun Colloquial 1. an unrefined, uncultured, slovenly young man: to look like a yobbo in stubbies. 2. a hooligan or lout: football yobbos. Also, yob. [British slang yob a young lad (back slang for boy)” — Macquarie Dictionary online.
One of only three uses in Australian case law: “Sarah Fisher gave evidence that she wrote letters to the editors of two newspapers, expressing her concern about the Kuraby mosque arson. Her letter to The Southern Star was published on Wednesday, 26 September. At 9.45pm that night she received a phone call from a person who told her that the caller had read her letter and that she should not have called the arsonist a coward; the caller did not like that; knew where she lived; had burnt the mosque and now her house was going to be burnt down. She thought the voice sounded like a 20-year-old male ‘yobbo’ voice, ‘not very articulated, a breathy ... whiney sort of voice, not a strong voice, Australian accent.’ She did not think it was a deep husky female voice; she agreed this was possible but it sounded like a man’s voice to her” — R v Hanlon; sub nom  QCA 75; BC200300591.