Tulkinghorn and his colleagues are currently busy finalising this year’s Hot 100 – the list of lawyers who have impressed most this year.
One of 2004’s stars was undoubtedly Linda Dobbs QC, elevated to the High Court as one of only a few female justices and the first ever black High Court bencher. Tulkinghorn called the clerks in the Queen’s Bench Division to book her for the Hot 100 photoshoot, expecting the usual exclamations of delight at being included. But it was not to be.
Instead, the apologetic clerk said that unfortunately Dame Linda would not be able to attend “for obvious reasons”. Tulkinghorn, confused, questioned what those reasons might be, as nothing ‘obvious’ had immediately sprung to mind.
“Well,” stammered the clerk, “it’s all because of the Department for Constitutional Affairs [DCA]. She can’t be photographed. Because, you know [and here he lowered his voice], she’s black.”
Tulkinghorn kids you not. According to the clerk, the DCA has forbidden Dobbs from doing any interviews or having any photographs taken in case she becomes the focus of media attention. Now, does that strike anyone as a decidedly odd way of promoting its new push for diversity in the judiciary?
When contacted, the DCA denied it had any such policy. It was, said the spokesman, for judges to decide whether or not they give interviews or have their photos taken. Unfortunately, Dobbs herself was not available to clear up the little mystery.