9 December 2015Print This Post

Judicial system should be “more ready to accommodate academics”, Lord Neuberger says

Lord Neuberger

Lord Neuberger: diversity about more than the “familiar issues”

The judicial system should be “more ready to accommodate academics” who were “more notable for their quality than for their quantity”, Lord Neuberger has said.

The president of the Supreme Court said: “The need for diversity should not concentrate solely on the familiar issues of gender, sexuality, physical condition and ethnicity, important as they of course are.

“Diversity of approach, training and experience are also significant, and it is good that we now have academics at all levels of the senior and more junior judiciary, although some might say that they are more notable for their quality than for their quantity.”

Lord Neuberger said it was “interesting and gratifying” to see how many distinguished retired judges now accept visiting professorships.

“It is not only good for them to contribute to academic discourse, but it must be excellent for law students – and not just law students – to attend lectures, seminars and discussion groups with former experienced judges.”

On the issue of whether the Supreme Court should issue several judgments rather than a single one, Lord Neuberger said separate judgments were likely to be “inappropriate” if the ruling was laying down good practice for the lower courts or dealing with statutory interpretation, but there was “a lot to be said” for more than one where the law was being developed.

In a speech at the annual conference of the Centre for Commercial Law Studies, part of Queen Mary, University of London, Lord Neuberger said that while the “primary duty” of appellate judges was to be independent, they also had a “collegiate function”.

He went on: “I do not regard it as my function to dissuade colleagues from writing a concurring or dissenting judgment, but I do regard it as my duty to point out to a colleague any difficulties for the future which I foresee if his proposed judgment proceeds in its presently proposed form.

“I should perhaps add that this is not only my function: other colleagues have expressed such views to me about my draft judgments from time to time – and no doubt also to each other.”

Lord Neuberger added that he had agreed to a proposal from one of his colleagues that “insults and hyperbole” could be included in draft judgments circulated only among justices of the Supreme Court.

Having made it clear that he deprecated “any sort of abuse or hyperbolic criticism”, Lord Neuberger said: “When we Supreme Court Justices discussed this among ourselves recently, one of my colleagues suggested that insults and hyperbole could be included in drafts of judgments when exchanged between ourselves, but would be deleted when the final version of the judgment was prepared for publication.

“I was happy to agree this, not least because one would then have the fun of seeing the insults without the embarrassment of having them deployed in public.”

By Nick Hilborne

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