Tuesday, 10 September 2019

The UK Supreme Court Yearbook Vol. 9

Lawyers planning to throw the book at Boris Johnson should go for this one. It's heavy. It also shows how the Supreme Court works, which may come as news to chainsaw-wielding political advisers.

The foreword by Lord Mance, Europe Farewell?, warns against isolation, with reference to the CJEU:

'Achieving an appropriate balance between centralising and national tendencies was and is always bound to be an ongoing process. The government's review, prior to the referendum, of the balance of competences at a European and national level did not suggest any fundamental imbalance. In such a situation, rather than simply condemn the whole system of adjudication by the CJEU, one might have expected that any particular issues could be resolved by collaboration... On the basis that the UK remained within the EU, it was possible to envisage that it might have fulfilled a leadership role in relation to the CJEU... With Brexit, the prospect of any significant influence being exercised by either the UK or by its Supreme Court in such matters would become sadly negligible.'

The introduction, by the editor-in-chief, Dr Daniel Clarry, illuminates the SC's approach to obiter dicta. With starry contributors including senior judges, SC-haunting QCs and academics, the rest of the volume is divided into four: Commentaries and Reflections; The Cutting Edge of Dishonesty, a symposium on Ivey v Genting Casinos, in which Lady Hale's vivid description of edge sorting will be of interest to card sharps and croupiers; The 2017-18 Legal Year in Review; and the Wisden-like Composition, Statistics and Table of Cases.

The frontispiece is my sketch of Owens v Owens, the appeal about contested divorce. The experience of a short person in the public seats is based on the backs of heads and seats. Foreground right is Margaret Heathcote, Chair of Resolution, First for Family Law.

In the judgment, Lady Hale stated: ‘I have found this a very troubling case. It is not for us to change the law laid down by Parliament – our role is only to interpret and apply the law that Parliament has given us.’ 

One of the aims of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, introduced in June 2019, is to do away with contested divorce. It received a second reading but is now, like other useful measures including the Domestic Abuse Bill, stuck down the Brexit sump. And while earthlings bicker about politics the seething planet prepares to discard its human mantle in favour of more agreeable company, such as bacteria.

The UK Supreme Court Yearbook Volume 9: 2017-2018 Legal Year, edited by Daniel Clarry, published by Appellate Press, £120 from Wildy's 

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