Insights and inspiration
What's in a Name?
14 October 2015
At Pearson Emerson Meyer our lawyers all take care to keep up with the law and that means keeping up also with reports of decided cases. Keeping up to date is necessary but it can be a bit of a headache.
The headache is enormously exacerbated by the courts' (in my view) obsessive focus on confidentiality.
All cases used to be reported under the names of the parties to them. This all changed when a case came up between two well-known medical specialists. After that, and the fuss that ensued, the court decided to use initials. However, there is only a limited number of combinations of initials and many cases that lawyers needed to refer to had exactly the same initials. That was a headache.
The court then decided to anonymise cases by making up names. That worked quite well except in the case of one particular judge who used names from racing and other sports activities, and some people thought that was a bit light hearted. So we have made-up names for the names of the cases but, unfortunately, the degree of anonymisation is now at the point where nobody and nothing is identified in the report of the case.
Witnesses are given letters ("Mr X"), countries and towns are called "country A" or "town X", and so it goes.
Often this is not too difficult but in a recent case, anonymously reported as Joss V Chadwell, the headache reached epic proportions. This is because each of the parties had multiple relationships, with Mr B, Mr H, Mr Q, Mr X and tellingly, Mr OO. They were in country K, country E, country J, country BB, country PP, country QQ; they lived in or owned property in, either separately or together, C town, D town, suburb G, L town, N town (M Street), P street, C town, R town, S street, T town, the U house, the V house and the W house, suburb Y, Z town (AA Street) CC town, the town of EG, DD street, R town, EE town, FF street, GG town, HH town, II town, JJ town, KK street, LL town, MM street, suburb G, and suburb RR.
This was also a case that had many witnesses, and I can assure you there is an alphabet soup of letters representing the identity of the witnesses.
This was a case where the Court had to decide whether or not the parties Mr Joss and Mr Chadwell had been in a de facto relationship. That is always a difficult task and the facts here were very complicated and took the judge a long time to go through in his judgment. Perhaps it is therefore understandable that the judge, having waded knee deep through this alphabet soup, reached his conclusion in a very few lines indeed, saying in the circumstances that he was not persuaded that there was a de facto relationship between the parties. I am sure he had a headache by the end of it.
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