Buggins strikes again in Law Society election controversy

THE OLD system of electing the profession's leaders which Martin Mears once famously derided as 'Buggins' turn' has been resurrected in a modified form by the Law Society's constitutional reform working group.

The group, headed by Tony Girling, the immediate past president of the Law Society and one of Mears' arch political rivals, wants the Law Society's council to nominate its own preferred candidates for the presidential elections, starting this April.

In a paper due to be submitted to the society's policy committee this week, the working group adds that the society's bylaws could be changed so that only nominated members of the council can stand for election.

If such a rule had been in place in 1995 it would have prevented Mears and his deputy, Robert Sayer, from breaking the mould of Law Society politics by standing against the council's 'official' candidates.

'What is being proposed looks to me like nothing but a blatant attempt to turn the clock back,' says Sayer, now the society's deputy vice-president, in a letter to members of the council.

'The further suggestion that nobody should be allowed to stand unless they are one of the three candidates nominated by the council is shocking.'

Under the old electoral system, the council held an election to choose the deputy vice-president who was then guaranteed an uncontested path to the presidency after serving out terms as deputy vice-president and vice-president.

In its paper, the working party on sections, reform and constitutional issues, suggests that, this April, the society's council should hold an informal 'mini-election' to choose 'three candidates' for the deputy vice-presidency 'who could then be regarded as credible candidates.

It would be up to them to decide whether all, two or just one of them decided to stand for the seat, the paper suggests, before adding that the rules could be changed to prevent council members who have not been nominated from standing.

Kamlesh Bahl, the chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, who has already announced that she will stand for the deputy vice-president post this summer, agreed that the Law Society needed to reform its electoral procedures but warned against it making any hasty decisions.