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Since the extensive lying in the Brexit Referendum Marcus J Ball has been trying to prosecute Boris Johnson for the offense of Misconduct in Public Office.

The case was initially successful, however when it reached the High Court it was shut down in what (at least from the outside) seemed like a very arbitrary and hasty fashion.

Mr Ball has since been investigating the circumstances and has produced evidence that at least to a non-legal-person seems fairly damning and has raised a formal Judicial Conduct Complaint.

News article: https://metro.co.uk/2019/12/20/judges-brexit-bus-legal-case-face-complaint-links-boris-johnson-11939848/

Video explainer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtB42gP4lCg

The complaint: https://uploads.strikinglycdn.com/files/f84aa457-0343-40e6-9edb-281205bb5f89/Marcus%20J%20Ball%20JCIO%20complaint%20SUPPERSTONE%20RAFFERTY.pdf

The main points of complaint:

Judge 1:

  • Previously worked for Johnson (and received substantial sums of money) - including during the time period where one of the offenses took place
  • Is a member of the same organisation "The Middle Temple"
  • Is a member of the same private social club "The Garrick Club" along with the accused's father and multiple close political allies of Johnson. Many of whom are also involved in the original misconduct, if not direct targets of this private prosecution.

Judge 2:

  • Her husband works for a close ally of Johnson who is accused of the same offence
  • Her Husband is a member of the same "Garrick Club" along with the accused.
  • Is a member of the Privy Council along with both Johnson and many close allies of Johnson.

From the perspective of a non-lawyer this seems to stink. If I went to court and found out that the judge was previously in the employ of the other party, was a member of the same exclusive clubs, and members of the same committees I would not be happy. Even if no actual bias applied the appearance of it seems very strong here.

But how strong is the complaint in actual legal terms? Does it have any realistic prospect of getting anywhere and do the judges involved actually have a case to answer or is the complaint likely to just be summarily thrown out?

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But how strong is the complaint in actual legal terms?

So far as I can tell, it's not "legally" doing anything - it can have no bearing on the case.

has raised a formal Judicial Conduct Complaint.

I don't think it is. I think it's a ranty letter.

Firstly, Ball's complaint addresses the two judges (throughout) and CCs the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office. If I were to complain to the JCIO about a judge I think I'd write "Judge Smith fell asleep during my case" not "Judge Smith, you fell asleep during my case."

Secondly, the JCIO says "We can only deal with complaints about the personal conduct of judicial office holders. This means that we cannot accept complaints about a judge’s decision or the way a judge has managed a case. Complaints which fall outside our remit will be rejected." Have a look at the JCIO's examples of what it can and can't investigate and cross-reference them with Ball's complaint.

I don't know how you're defining success in the context (the judges being shamed into changing their minds? the JCIO censuring the judges? someone overturning the decision? Ball getting more donations?) but I think the "realistic prospect" is that the complaint will go in the bin be rejected.

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    The substance of the original question seems to suggest a conflict of interest from which the judges failed to recuse themselves when they should have. While this probably can't address a bad decision on the merits (from which an appeal would be the remedy), the JCIO probably would have jurisdiction to sanction the judges in some way for violating a judicial ethics duty to recuse, or to not fall asleep in trial (expressly mentioned on the website), apart from the merits of the dispute. I agree that it isn't clear the the Complaint actually is lodged with the proper party, however. – ohwilleke Dec 24 '19 at 21:34
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    On further examination of the JCIO website it looks like it might not have jurisdiction over failure to recuse, although perhaps some other body might have jurisdiction over that in some kind of proceeding. – ohwilleke Dec 24 '19 at 21:37
  • Yeah, this is essentially what I'm trying to get a feel for. Is there any actual reasonable recourse here or is this just a rant and kicking up a fuss with no power to actually change anything. It seems odd that in the event of conflict of interest coming out after a verdict there is no redress available. – Tim B Dec 26 '19 at 0:30
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If I can go through the complaints one by one:

Judge 1:

Previously worked for Johnson (and received substantial sums of money) - including during the time period where one of the offenses took place

That is Mr. Ball's spin on it. The reality here is that judge, Supperstone, provided some sort of legal advice to the Greater London Authority (GLA) in 2008 while Johnson was Mayor of London.

Is a member of the same organisation "The Middle Temple"

Middle Temple is one of the four Inns of Court - all barristers must belong to one and it is here that they are called to the bar. Supperstone is a Master of the Bench of Middle Temple and is one of around 700. They often bestow honourary membership, as a Master of the Bench, to senior politicians, business leaders and others at the top of their profession. Sadiq Khan and John Major, like Johnson, are also honourary Masters of the Bench of Middle Temple. It's basically a way to get a speaker for your works Christmas dinner.

Is a member of the same private social club "The Garrick Club" along with the accused's father and multiple close political allies of Johnson. Many of whom are also involved in the original misconduct, if not direct targets of this private prosecution.

So what? It's a massive stretch to claim bias when the relationship is one step removed and there's no evidence of any relationship between Supperstone and Johnson Sr, Gove or Rees Mogg. The latter two are nothing to do with the private prosecution which was directed as Johnson.

Judge 2: Her husband works for a close ally of Johnson who is accused of the same offence.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers appointed her husband as Chair of the Northern Ireland Committee on Protection (NICOP) and Independent Reviewer of National Security Arrangements in Northern Ireland in May 2016. Mr. Ball's reasoning for bias is because Villiers used the same £350m figure when campaigning and believes that Lady Rafferty is grateful to her for providing her husband with employment and the significant payment that comes with it; therefore she closed down the Johnson case because if it ever got to court and Johnson was found guilty, the same thing could happen to Villiers. Yes, it's that convoluted so as to be nonsensical and a bit sexist as well.

Her Husband is a member of the same "Garrick Club" along with the accused.

Again, so what? That's even more of a stretch than the same allegation made about Supperstone.

Is a member of the Privy Council along with both Johnson and many close allies of Johnson.

That's a complete non-starter as Lady Hale and the rest of the Supreme justices ruled against Johnson in the prorogation case back in September. All are members of the Privy Council, most senior members of the judiciary are as well.

Overall, the accusations of bias are incredibly tenuous. None of the above really matters though; the complaint is hopeless because the JCIO won't deal with accusations of bias, the decision to quash the summons or recusing the judges. The tone of the letter is awful as well; Ball is hectoring two legal professionals with more years of experience than each than he has been alive.

  • Well, I can understand his frustration that several years of work got thrown out after what seemed like a very cursory look at the evidence. Right now we're left with a blatant and proven liar in office, a sycophantic press, and no recourse...so when the legal aspect also gets shut down... – Tim B Jan 3 at 16:44
  • You're right though, the case here seems flimsy at best. – Tim B Jan 3 at 16:45

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