Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Supreme Court art: shades of white

Today's hearing is veiled in white. Vestergaard Frandsen A/S and 2 others v Bestnet Europe Limited and 5 others concerns insecticidal mosquito nets. Have trade secrets been misused? Must someone with an obligation of confidence know that an act complained of breaches that obligation?

Counsel has two default positions
Fittingly we're in Court 2, the white-painted box, which brightens the eye and sharpens the mind.

The justices are needling counsel. Every argument is dutifully brought out for inspection in the sunlight which filters through off-white flower-embossed blinds.

Counsel moves around a lot but doesn't ward off the occasional painful bite from the cloud of justices:

'It doesn't really help with the point we're on at all.'
'As such, no, my lord.'
'As such.'

Then, after under two hours, proceedings are brought briskly to a close: the court decides not to hear the respondents.

I wander along to the basement café. Sun streams down from the roof-window several floors above and bounces off the shiny white tables.

Such brightness demands a melancholy thought: The White Duck, an eighteenth-century meditation on white painted by Jean-Baptiste Oudry.

This rhapsodic still life was stolen from us all in 1992, from Houghton Hall in Norfolk, taken out of its frame. Does it have a loving curator? Is it rolled up and cracked? Can it hear rats? Will it be recovered before its keepers die?

Court 2 window blind. The direction of the
curves in the composition shows you
I am left-handed

There is no sitting this afternoon so I make my own entertainment.

In the basement there are two white marble bears, the gift of the Chief Justice of Canada, set under a glass table-top. They are a source of atavistic confusion to the Supreme Court's souvenir bear who peers in from above.

Then, in full sight of The Queen, he decides to cover everything with billows of white.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Supreme Court art: service and the eyes of a child

Today's case is about finding the right address. Talking of which, cabbies tend not to know where the Supreme Court is - the building was Middlesex Guildhall when most of them did the knowledge. This morning I'm offered the House of Lords.

Abela and others v Baadarani concerns the service of a claim form - but, to quote my favourite Rodgers and Hart song, Where or When?

There have been livelier sessions. Counsel are yomping through treacle. In the public seats, some people resort to furtive (forbidden) mobile phone action. To ward off a rumbling stomach, the man next to me eats an inch of cereal bar.

How long is too long? What is 'good' in the sense of 'in good time'?  There's never enough time in court to draw. I'm absorbed like a child. Sometimes I feel a bit swoony. I think I'm forgetting to breathe.
Lunch in the café is a prawn mayonnaise sandwich and, at 79p, the most expensive Wispa I've ever eaten.

The courtroom layout carves the personnel into four slices: public; legal teams; judges; court staff and judicial assistants. I try to represent the different strata as transparencies or ectoplasm.

I think of  Barocci's The Last Supper (below) where the four strata are servants, disciples (outer layer), top tier at the table, angels.

Yesterday, Lord Justice Hughes and Lord Justice Toulson were sworn in. Their families watched from the public seats. I watched on Sky. To end the formalities, Lord Neuberger said he hoped that the conduct of the new justices would be as exemplary as that of their grandchildren.

'The Last Supper' by Barocci


Towards the end of today's proceedings, a family comes in to watch. The little girl is a dead ringer for John Everett Millais's daughter Effie, his model for My First Sermon and My Second Sermon (both below).

More pictures if you scroll down.

Looking out of the window