November 2 , 2023

Uncommon Law

October 20 , 2023

Expanding Judicial Review Evidence

June 22, 2023

Competition v. Benefits

June 19, 2023

Clogged Courts

June 12, 2023

Preparing Applications in Uncertain Conditions

May 8, 2023

Competence is a Delicate Flower

March 30 , 2023

Urgent! Very Hard to Meet a Limitation Period

March 13 , 2023

Parties to Planning Appeals

March 7 , 2023

Costs in Family Law Litigation

January 30 , 2023

Dodging Settlement Privilege

January 4 , 2023

Lurking Dangers and Errors

January 3 , 2023

Your Real Goals

December 5 , 2022

Contracts for Higher Costs

November 24 , 2022

Scope of Offers to Settle

October 13 , 2022

Checklist for Cross-Examination

September 16 , 2022

Reviewing Latest Changes

August 22 , 2022

First Steps in Problem Solving

July 28 , 2022

Checklist of Powerful Procedural Principles

March 22 , 2022

Repeating a Cross-Examination Question

January 25 , 2022

Enforcing Land Sales Becomes Easier

January 5 , 2022

Proving a Settlement After a Mediation

November 16, 2021

Types of Injunctions

October 1, 2021

Orders After Litigation is Over

August 11, 2021

Discoverability for Limitation Periods

August 5 , 2021

Releases of Claims

June 7 , 2021

Language Used Still Matters

May 17 , 2021

Serving Uncooperative People

April 15 , 2021

Death and After-Life of Contingency Agreements

February 22 , 2021

Legal Analysis

February 2 , 2021

Costs Clarified at Last

January 4 , 2021


December 10, 2020

Traps and Confusion in Service Times

November 24, 2020

Don't Cut Corners

October 2 , 2020

Consent Orders

August 4 , 2020

Electronic Hearings

July 21, 2020

Ceasing to Act

June 29, 2020

Writing Skills

June 29, 2020

Keeping Up With the Law

June 22, 2020

Assets as a Test for Security for Costs

June 19, 2020

What is This Case About?

June 11, 2020

Cross-Examining Child Witnesses

May 20 , 2020

Formal Offers

May 13 , 2020

Vexatious or Self-Represented Litigants

January 7, 2020

G.S.T. and Costs

December 20 , 2019

Electronically Navigating the

October 7 , 2019

Questioning is a Bad Word

July 29 , 2019

Dismissal for Delay

May 7 , 2019

Rule 4.31 Fallacies

March 18 , 2019

More Dangers in Oral Fee Agreements

February 11 , 2019

Weir-Jones Decisions

January 9 , 2019

Discouraging Settlements

November 30, 2018

European Court Helps You Twice?

November 23 , 2018

Courts Overruling Tribunals

November 16 , 2018

New Evidence on Appeal

October 30 , 2018

Schedule C's Role

July 17 , 2018

Loopholes in Enforcing Settlements

May 7 , 2018

Enforcement of Procedure Rules

April 16, 2018

Limping Lawsuits are Often

April 3 , 2018

Court of Appeal Tips for
Summary Decisions

March 19, 2018

Serious Dangers in Chambers

February 13 , 2018

Court Backlog

December 18 , 2017

Lowering the Status of Courts

September 15 , 2017

Access to Court Decisions

July 4 , 2017

Strictissimi Juris

June 14 , 2017

Why Don't Your Clients Settle?

June 5 , 2017

Gap in Rules About Parties

June 5, 2017

Personal Costs Against

April 26, 2017

Clogged Courts

April 11, 2017

Dismissal for Want of

January 6, 2017

Incomplete Disclosure

December 15, 2016


November 23, 2016

Is Contract Interpretation Law?


Côté’s Commentaries

© J.E. Côté 2016-2023


In these dark and unforgiving times, a little humor is needed. A classic book, found in many editions, is A.P. Herbert, Uncommon Law (1935). Some American works have assumed that it was a collection of genuine (but unusual) court decisions and transcripts. But it is pure fantasy, with gentle mockery of many quirks of litigation. Some elements are old-fashioned; but puffed-up pointless cross-examination isn’t.

The book has dozens of odd legal fantasies. To intrigue you, here are a few snippets from one of its chapters.

“... there were some sharp exchanges between Sir Ethelred Rutt and Sir Humphrey Codd, in which both the famous advocates constantly thumped on the desk, raised their eyebrows, and blew their noses. Sir Ethelred’s brief is marked four thousand pounds, with ‘refreshers’ of two hundred pounds a day, and it is the general opinion in legal circles that the case will never finish. Had the defendant company been unable to secure his services, it is calculated that the case would have been clearly intelligible from the beginning, and in all probability would have been concluded in a day.”

. . .

“The Judge: Without anticipating anything I may have to say at a later stage, and subject to anything which may be disclosed in evidence next year, and bearing in mind the relations of the parties, and without prejudice to the issue of forgery, and prima facie and status quo, and not forgetting the Boat Race, I think it right to say that so far as I understand the law (and, of course, I am a mere child in sir Ethelred’s hands) I shall at a suitable moment be prepared to say that the question is relevant and should be answered, subject to the consideration that this sentence has now continued so long that it may be arguable that the law has altered in the meantime.”

. . .

“Sir Ethelred: I put it to you that the suggestion I have put to you is consistent with the hypothesis that the answers you have given are easily distinguishable from the true facts? Yes or No?”

. . .

“Sir Ethelred: ... Did you stay at the Grand Hotel Palermo, in September 1911 with a woman purporting to be your wife?

Witness: Yes

Sir Ethelred: Was she your wife?

Witness: Yes.

Sir Ethelred: On the evening of the 11th of September were you in your private room with a woman?

Witness: Very likely.

Sir Ethelred: Be careful, Mr. Stanley--the house was being watched you know. At nine p.m. did you draw the blinds in your private room?

Witness: Very likely.

Sir Ethelred: Ah! So you drew the blinds? Will you tell the court and jury why you drew the blinds?

Witness: To annoy the watchers.”

. . .

. . .

“Sir Ethelred: Would it surprise you to learn that this letter which you wrote on the 30th May is in your own handwriting? Yes or No?

Witness: No.”

. . .

“Sir Ethelred: At Palermo, in September, there would be good sea-bathing?

Witness: Yes

Sir Ethelred: Would it be fair to say that you bathed at Palermo?

Witness: Yes

Sir Ethelred: In company with this woman who accompanied you?

Witness: Yes.

Sir Ethelred: Mixed bathing?

Witness: Certainly. My wife is a woman.

Sir Ethelred: Of course, Mr. Moss, I don’t suggest that there is anything wrong in mixed bathing.

Witness: Then why did you refer to it?

Sir Ethelred: Milord, I claim the protection of the Court.

The Judge: Mr. Moss, I am here to protect learned counsel, and I will not have them insulted. It is little I am allowed to do in these proceedings, but at least I can do that. Sir Ethelred is paid a great deal of money for cross-examining you, and the longer he cross-examines you the longer will the case continue and the more will Sir Ethelred be paid. It is therefore very selfish of you to take the bread out of his mouth by objecting to his little excursions into fancy. Moreover, he has the mind of a child, and has not the least idea how people really behave. He gets his ideas from French plays and detective stories, and you must admit that he is most entertaining. Moreover, he is very sensitive, so please answer his questions kindly, and don’t upset him.”

The Expert Witness Case (Carrot v. Guano Assn.)


– Hon. J.E. Côté

The Commentaries are intended to call the attention of lawyers to promising or threatening developments in the law, in civil procedure, in developing their skills, or simply to describe something curious, funny or intriguing.

The Hon. Jean Côté retired from the Court of Appeal of Alberta and would be willing to act as an arbitrator, mediator, or referee under Rules 6.44 and 6.45 of the Alberta Rules of Court.

He may be contacted through Juriliber at:

email: or phone 780-424-5345.