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Erudite judges

  • December 22nd, 2011

A High Court Judge last night gently asked me the plural of ignoramus. Embarrassment was ready to hand. He did not need to refer to the NBR report of a careless conversation with Jock Anderson which prompted a recent post.

I had in mind in judges who refer to “the privilege of limited liability” when chiding business people, though judges in these areas are largely driven by statute.

Now I’ve seen the dictionary definition of ignoramus I could have scarcely scored a better own goal. The word gained currency as the name of an ignorant lawyer in a 1615 English play. The plural is ‘ignoramuses’, not the faux Latin ‘ignorami’ attributed to me by Jock, probably correctly.

My humbling is deepened by the crisp command of arcane finance theory displayed in a judgment of Clifford J delivered today. He is running a mammoth (in lawyer numbers) case testing a new merit review appeal regime under the Commerce Act provisions for price control. It will govern the methods for setting maximum rates of return on capital for monopoly suppliers in electricity and other markets.

In early hearings he disarmingly affected innocence of specialist expertise. Perhaps that was to help settle lawyer anxieties about the task facing the Court. They must argue  the Capital Asset Pricing Model and the significance of beta and leverage to the Brennan Lally simplification of the Weighted Average Cost of Capital, probably without any direct input to the court from experts other than the two lay assessors who will sit with the judge.

I can draw on dim flickers of  recollection from classes at the feet of Professors Trow and Winiata of VUW. . Clifford J's wry initial comments suggested he could not call on anything similar.

But today’s judgment summarises the finance theory issues with extraordinary economy.     Wow.



the plural  of  "Ignoramus"  Stephen is we are dumb,
New Zealanders are dumb. Simple. Stupid. 

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