‘I will no longer support your Chambers’: Top judge’s incredible letter to elite set Blackstone emerges in bias row
The full letter by Mr Justice Peter Smith revealed, as he is barred from hearing Blackstone barristers’ cases
A top judge is being blocked from hearing cases involving one of the bar’s most famous chambers after he was accused of bias against its barristers.
The extraordinary state of affairs has come about because of a letter penned by Mr Justice Peter Smith to the head of Blackstone Chambers, Anthony Peto QC, in which the High Court judge pledges that he “will no longer support your Chambers”.
The missive — which Legal Cheek has obtained courtesy of leading legal journalist Joshua Rozenberg and reproduced in full below — was written by Smith last year in response to an article in The Times by Blackstone silk David Pannick QC that was critical of his handling of an unrelated case.
Providing a window into the relationships between judges and barristers, Smith writes that “The quite outrageous article of Pannick caused me a lot of grief and a lot of trouble” before adding that the piece “has been extremely damaging to Blackstone Chambers within the Chancery Division.”
Smith then goes on to bring the contentious subject of QC applications into it, writing:
I am extremely disappointed about it because I have strongly supported your Chambers over the years especially in Silk Applications. Your own application was supported by me and was strongly supported by me to overcome doubts expressed by brother Judges concerning you. I have supported other people. It is obvious that Blackstone takes but does not give.
The judge concludes:
I will no longer support your Chambers please make that clear to members of your Chambers. I do not wish to be associated with Chambers that have people like Pannick in it.
The incredible letter has been made public as part of the appeal of Smith’s award of £20 million to the “secret wife” of a Saudi king.
The king’s son, who is fighting the award, was represented by Pannick at an earlier stage of the case. He is currently claiming in the Court of Appeal that the payout was revenge for Pannick’s criticism of Smith in The Times over his conduct in a case involving British Airways which the judge used to complain about the airline’s completely unrelated loss of his own luggage.
As all this rumbles on, Smith and Blackstone are being kept apart.
According to Blackstone Chambers, it’s not they who have been barred by LCJ from appearing before Mr Justice Peter Smith. Other way round.
— Joshua Rozenberg (@JoshuaRozenberg) May 16, 2016
A spokesperson from the Judicial Office said:
Following an issue that has arisen during civil proceedings, Mr Justice Peter Smith has agreed to refrain from sitting until those civil proceedings are resolved.