Surreal law facts
The truth is always stranger than fiction
The life-saving psalm
Psalm 51, verses one through four was a veritable lifesaver. During the fanatic years of the Roman Catholic religion in Europe, from about 1300 to 1800, a person convicted of a crime for which he was to be sentenced to death, if it was a first offence, could claim benefit of clergy, which meant that, if he could prove that he was religious (by reciting the Psalm 51), he could avoid the death penalty. They were branded on the thumb so they could never use the defence a second time.
The life-saving words:
"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest."
The zero-student law school
All Souls College is a law school and history college and part of Oxford University but which, since it opened in 1438, has never had a single student. It does, though, have a huge building, a website (www.all-souls.ox.ac.uk) and an outstanding library (Codrington).
All Souls College, though officially an higher-level educational institution, is, in reality, an old boy's club. At one point, memberships (called "fellowships") were sold for cash.
Today, it is an association of select British hoidy toidies and academics, in history and law, some of which are seconded to other colleges at Oxford University as teachers (William Blackstone was a member).
It was named by its founder, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to encourage prays for "all (the) souls" of the numerous English who had died in ruinous wars against France.
Chief justice, momma's boy
Lord Haldane (the made-up British nobleman title for Richard Burdon, his real name), was a Scotsman who lived from 1856 to 1928.
A successful lawyer, Burdon reached the pinnacle of that career in Great Britain, achieving England's equivalent for Chief Justice and Minister of Justice, Lord Chancellor, in 1912. He also served as British War Secretary during World War I.
And he was the 'momma boy' of all 'momma boys'.
For every single day, from the death of his father in 1877, to the death of his mother at the age of 100, in 1925 - some 48 years - the United Kingdom's most senior lawyer dutifully wrote a letter to his mother, Mary Burdon-Sanderson.
Burdon remained a life-long bachelor after the one woman he proposed to broke off their engagement.
He was forced to resign as Lord Chancellor in 1915, when at the height of the war, he was unable to resist public suspicion of German sympathies.
The 'wannabe jock' lawyer
Canadian attorney Lloyd Duhaime ran from Quebec City to Baie-Comeau to raise $5,000 for a charity (United Way) in 1989, running the 250 miles (400km) in eleven days.
Big deal you say?
In 1992, this same lawyer was the goaltender for a team that set the world record for the longest ever ice hockey game, collecting an assist and a penalty in the 52 hour marathon on ice.
And then, on Monday, November 16, 1985, he successfully argued an unemployment insurance case before Justices Jean Beetz, W. R. Macintrye and Bertha Wilson of the Supreme Court of Canada only 2 days after being called to the bar (Canada v Gagnon).