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It is a long-established legal rule that the contents of a will, once it is admitted to probate, are available for inspection by any member of the public. This article is the first examination of this remarkable rule, its possible rationales, and its attendant disadvantages. Particular attention is paid to the problems of the ensuing loss of privacy. Legislative attempts to limit open access are considered together with non-legislative devices used for the same purpose: the secret trust; and applications for the sealing of a will (a device especially prevalent in the case of royal wills).
Constitutional conventions are to be found in political and legal systems of very different types. Not surprisingly, they exist in considerable abundance in those systems—the prime example is the United Kingdom—the affairs of which are ordered by an unwritten constitution. Familiar instances of constitutional conventions in British government include the following: that the Monarch is required to appoint as Prime Minister the person best placed to command a majority in the House of Commons; that governments are to resign when defeated on a vote of no confidence; that the judicial members of the House of Lords refrain from indulging in party political debate in the chamber; and that ministers are to resign from office after displaying an (admittedly indeterminate) degree of mismanagement of their departments. The preconditions of the existence of any particular constitutional convention are set out in a well-known passage by Sir Ivor Jennings.
The term ‘constitutional convention’ tends to be attached indiscriminately to any regularity of conduct that is observed in the process of government. It is here argued, however, that constitutional conventions as properly understood are social rules which govern the relations between political parties or the institutions of government. Furthermore, this term is to be confined only to those social rules that are constitutional in character. Intra- party standards of conduct, in particular, have wrongly been accorded the status of constitutional convention. These considerations, together with a detailed examination of the precise status of constitutional conventions as part of the ‘morality’ of the constitution, lead to a re-assessment of the conditions under which constitutional conventions both come into existence and cease to exist.
Should those who have served as members of the jury in a newsworthy trial be restrained by the criminal law from recounting what transpired in the jury room?
The issues surrounding the legitimacy or otherwise of jury room disclosures pose peculiar problems in the administration of justice. They do so because such disclosures are made, not by journalists assigned to cover the trial (as at present), nor via the medium of televising the event (as may shortly be the case), nor simply by those most intimately involved in the conduct and outcome ofthe trial (such as the accused or counsel). The special feature which sets jury room disclosures apart is the fact that they emanate from those who are directly responsible for the verdict in the case. Viewed in this way, the accounts given by ex-jurors should perhaps be considered in broadly the same light as the recollections of the person less directly responsible for the outcome, namely the trial judge. And, indeed, we do have a wellknown instance of the latter type of account in Lord Devlin's Easing the Passing , the story of the trial for murder in 1957 of Dr John Bodkin Adams.