This morning’s business in the UK Supreme Court had an unexpected but extremely pleasant surprise for viewers. Apart from the Court’s usual business of handing down several judgments, Lord Hope made a profoundly touching speech about Lord Phillips – the Court’s incumbent President who will step down as the UK’s most senior judge on 30 September 2012. It was the last time that Lord Phillips presided over the Court. His Lordship will relinquish charge to Lord Neuberger who will be sworn in on 1 October 2012.
Lord Hope began his address by reminiscing, as their experience in the House of Lords proved, that the “last time” never really is the last time because in their Lordships’ line of business urgent matters might need tending to and duty might call upon the President yet again.
Lord Hope explained that the difficult task of relocating from the House of Lords to the Supreme Court was managed under the leadership of Lord Phillips who gave the UK’s new Court of last resort “the best possible start.” Lord Hope praised his brother for promoting openness with the public, inspiring confidence in the judiciary, travelling worldwide to spread the Court’s message and by delivering compelling judgments. Lord Hope, who spoke for everyone concerned (this site included), expressed his “deep admiration for a job truly well done” and remained “grateful” to Lord Phillips for his “leadership as the president.”
Following Lord Hope’s address, Michael Fordham QC said that the beaming smiles of the security guards at the entrance to the Supreme Court were more than matched by Lord Phillips who, rather than expose, embarrass or humiliate counsel (live in front of the whole world) chose instead to remain alert and receptive. The UK Supreme Court was, in fact, a “straightforward and down to Earth place.”
Lord Phillips noted that he, together with the registrar, could dictate which justices could be present when judgments were handed down. But his Lordship explained that the state of democracy in the Supreme Court was such that he could not control today’s farewell which was held in his honour. Ultimately, his colleagues could get him to do what they wanted.
No doubt everyone will miss Lord Phillips who, prior to adjourning his court at 10:30 AM today, expressly admitted to having had “fifty happy years in the law”.
Coming from a Commonwealth jurisdiction (Pakistan) which only sixty five years ago would have been bound by decisions made by the Privy Council, this blog would like take this opportunity to thank Lord Phillips not only for allowing the Court’s proceedings to be streamed live, but also for overseeing the production of remarkably coherent and readable judgments. His Lordship’s pen portrait is available here. Watching hearings live before judgments are handed down is an immense asset for anyone who studies and observes the Supreme Court.
I would also like to thank Adam Wagner, who campaigned to have the filmed proceedings of the Court streamed live, for recommending posts from this site. As Adam expected, live Supreme Court proceedings have decidedly put more QCs on our TVs!