Judge benched after writing "shocking" letter to barristers
20 May 2016
A High Court judge notorious for throwing tantrums has taken a sudden leave of absence after it was revealed that he sent a bizarre letter to a barristers chambers implying that he would do them over.
Mr Justice Peter Smith wrote to the head of Blackstone Chambers complaining about an article in the Times written by a Blackstone barrister, Lord Pannick QC, in which Pannick criticised Smith for his behaviour in a case involving British Airways. As RollOnFriday reported at the time
, Smith hijacked the BA hearing to accuse the airline of deliberately losing his luggage. Stunning the court with a rant in which he raised his missing bags 40 times and complained "I am the victim
", Smith was forced to recuse himself.
Pannick wrote, “How we laughed. But the case raises serious issues about judicial conduct that need urgent consideration by the lord chief justice"
. In response, Smith sent Anthony Peto QC, the head of Blackstone Chambers, an extraordinary letter which has now leaked in which he whinges that Pannick's article is "quite outrageous
" and "has caused me a lot of grief and trouble
". Crying that, "I am extremely disappointed about it
", Smith sulks that Pannick's "opinion is not worth the paper it is printed on
". Then he gets nasty. Writing that he has in the past supported Blackstone barristers' applications to become Silks, Smith says "it is obvious that Blackstone takes but does not give
", and vows "I will no longer support your chambers
The petulant letter was disclosed when Smith ruled against a Saudi prince whom Blackstone was representing in a High Court case. Prince Abdul Aziz accused Smith of ruling against him as revenge against Blackstone for Pannick's article. Aziz is seeking to quash Smith's decision in the Court of Appeal, where Lord Grabiner QC has called Smith's behaviour "indefensible
” and the letter “a shocking piece of paper
" that provides evidence of possible bias.
||Smith relaxing at home
In a bizarre arrangement which the Judicial Office has refused to comment upon, Smith is understood not sit on cases involving his blood feud enemies. Blackstone is
the latest addition, but Addleshaw Goddard is also on the list after
Smith's attempts to join its partnership several years ago were rebuffed. In 2008, Smith was accused of taking revenge on the firm in a case involving one of its lawyers. Ruling that he should have recused himself, the Court of Appeal said at the time that his “wholly inappropriate
actions in the case “rose directly from the judge’s private affairs
Smith is now hearing no cases at all. A spokesman for the Judicial Office told RollOnFriday, "Following an issue that has arisen during civil proceedings, Mr Justice Peter Smith has agreed to refrain from sitting until those civil proceedings are resolved
”. Given the growing number of Smith's mortal enemies and his frequent forced recusals, not sitting in the first place may save a lot of time.