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In a classic case of “You snooze, you lose,” I seem to have missed my chance to become Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain. This is what happens when you don’t keep up with the job market in your chosen field. I’ve been considering a job change for a long time. I’m pretty much topped-out in my present occupation. I talked to the chief justice of the state Supreme Court about it, and he confirmed that there are no courts higher than my own whose windows require daily washing. So I was thinking outside the box that is the California judiciary. The chief had suggested Senegal and East Timor as countries with a high incidence of dirty glass. But both jobs seemed likely to require language skills and malarial immunity that I haven’t yet developed, so I had given up on them and wasn’t actively looking for work. Unfortunately, despite the remarkably high number of people who’ve told me that I missed my calling, none had suggested the Lord High Chancellor position. And now it’s gone. Great Britain has abolished the post and replaced it with a Department for Constitutional Affairs. While this would seem auspicious news indeed — given the British penchant for sex scandals, an entire department devoted to governmental affairs sounds like an idea fairly brimming with self-insight and entertainment value — the term “constitutional affairs” turns out to relate not to Clintonesque matters, but only to “things pertaining to the judiciary.” This is a crushing disappointment to those of us with both a proper regard for British tradition and a well-honed appreciation of the salacious. But it’s especially hard on me, since I’m only now finding out that my destiny did not involve tropical climes at all. The job was waiting for me in England, where there are no mosquitoes, and they speak a language I’m confident I could learn. SLICES, DICES, AND JUDGES I’m sure I could have gotten the job. I can’t believe there were many applicants. Maybe that’s why they closed it down. I mean, let’s take a quick look at some of the more famous Lord Chancellors as described by the Associated Press: “Thomas Becket, who became Archbishop of Canterbury and was martyred by King Henry II, was a Lord Chancellor. So was Thomas More, executed in 1535 for refusing to recognize Henry VIII as head of the church. Cardinal Wolsey, chancellor to Henry VII and Henry VIII . . . died in prison awaiting trial for treason.” That’s not a very felicitous history, now is it? How many people do you think would want to play center field for the Yankees if they had executed Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, and Bobby Murcer had died in prison? Granted, if you’re into wielding power, this might be an attractive position. Lotta juice in this gig. Near as I can determine, the Lord High Chancellor is like a federal judge on steroids. “The Lord Chancellor is simultaneously a judge, a legislator and a member of the Cabinet.” He is the speaker of the House of Lords and a government minister, sits occasionally as a judge with the Law Lords, tells the queen whom to appoint to the bench, plays center-half for Tottenham Hotspur, directs three movies a year, and owns a Hallmark shop in Chelsea. This has caused some griping among sticklers who feel that maybe, as Lord Falconer put it, “the person who appoints judges should not be a member of the executive, a member of the legislature and involved as well as the head of the judiciary.” Besides, his three-picture-a-year deal is better than Spielberg gets. I dunno. I think if you get the right guy, the whole separation-of-powers thing is generally overrated. And, sadly, I was that guy. THE SIGHT OF ME I was born to be Lord High Chancellor. According to AP, the uniform consists of a “flowing full-bottomed wig, ermine-trimmed robes, breeches, stockings and silver-buckled shoes.” This is, of course, one of my better outfits. My silver-buckled shoes are to die for. Contrast my own personal splendor with that of the unworthy Lord Irvine of Lairg, who stepped down as Lord High Chancellor this summer. I mean, I don’t want to sound catty, but the man is simply unable to pull off the ermine-trimmed robes and flowing wig thing. He looks like Jar Jar Binks in drag. And he knows it. He actually petitioned Parliament to allow him to wear ordinary trousers rather than tights and breeches for his appearances there. I would never have done that. Once they got me into tights and breeches, it would have taken a king’s ransom to get me out. Also a full rescue crew employing the Jaws of Life. I would have been perfect. According to AP, “During the State Opening of Parliament, the Lord Chancellor delivered the Throne Speech to the monarch to be read aloud. Afterward, he descended the stairs to the throne backward so as not to turn his back on his sovereign.” I could do this; I can walk backward. According to AP, “The Lord Chancellor was guardian of the Great Seal.” I love animals. “The post also served as Speaker in the House of Lords, presiding over debates from his seat on the Woolsack — a red cushion stuffed with wool gathered from around the Commonwealth.” Presiding over debates is my present job description; I own two red cushions, which sit next to my living room fireplace and could easily be shipped to London after we brush off the cat hair; and I’ve probably indulged in more woolgathering than any other judge this side of the Atlantic. Who better than I? I even have some good ideas about staffing. “On formal occasions such as the opening of Parliament or the Law Courts, the Lord Chancellor is attended by a procession of five persons. First comes a tipstaff, then the official who holds the joint offices of Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor and Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, then the Mace-Bearer, then the Purse-Bearer, then the Lord Chancellor himself, and lastly a Train-Bearer.” Obviously, we can’t do without the Train-Bearer or the tipstaff, but, in the interests of economy and good government, I would have been willing to carry my own purse and mace. STRIPES OR FLORALS? But what really convinces me that this was my destiny is the final paragraph from the AP story: “Lord Irvine . . . was appointed in 1997 and spent $1 million on renovations to the House of Lords apartment that came with his job, including $95,000 on wallpaper.” A $95,000 wallpaper allowance? Now that’s a cool job. I worried a little that maybe Lord Irvine had spent his own money, but I’m confident that could not be the case. I’ve done a little research, and I’m now quite sure that no member of my gender has ever, in the history of the cosmos, spent $95,000 on wallpaper by choice. As near as I can determine, the previous record was $72,000 by Cardinal Wolsey in 1530. That’s why they charged him with treason. And we all know how that turned out. But I must admit to one reservation about the job. According to R.F.V. Heuston, “A paragraph may be added here about the peculiar concept that the Lord Chancellor is ‘keeper of the King’s conscience.’ Nobody has been clear as to what this phrase, apparently first used by Hatton in 1587, meant.” I would be a little reluctant to take on a role at once so weighty and so undefined. This may not have been a big problem for Lord Irvine, since I shouldn’t think Queen Elizabeth’s conscience would be too fractious a colt. But I’m not sure I want to sign on as “keeper of the conscience” for any of her likely successors. They look like high-spirited boys, and keeping any of their consciences might require the re-employment of the Mace-Bearer and the Purse-Bearer, as well as several Long-Shoremen, a Line-Backer, and a Steer-Wrestler. It wouldn’t do for someone from Orange County to be a budget-buster. Maybe I’m better off where I am. The chief justice will realize that my loss was his gain . . . someday. William W. Bedsworth is an associate justice at the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana, Calif. He can be reached at [email protected]. This article first appeared in The Recorder, the American Lawyer Media newspaper in San Francisco.

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