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Brexit legal challenge: Busiest court in living memory hears judges say case WILL be heard by the Lord Chief Justice

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October court hearing set as parties consider leap frog appeal to Supreme Court

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Anyone who’s anyone flocked to the High Court this morning to watch the Brexit legal challenge get underway. And the court was packed to the rafters as Sir Brian Leveson — of phone hacking inquiry fame — and Mr Justice Cranston announced that the full hearing will be heard in front of the Lord Chief Justice on an as yet unconfirmed date in October.

Those in attendance listened intently as seven silks — including occasional journalist David Pannick QC and Maitland Chambers heavyweight Dominic Chambers QC — teased out some of the tricky procedural details necessarily inherent in a case with so many claimants.

The headline claimant was a British hairdresser called Deir Dos Santos, described by his lawyer as “just an ordinary guy”, but there were many other “concerned citizens” who also wanted to be involved in the litigation.

All the claimants are advancing similar arguments: they’re looking to the court — as a check and balance on government power — to ensure parliament is given a vote on whether to invoke article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty (the clause which will trigger the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union).

The court decided that the new lead claimant would be Pannick’s client Gina Miller, and the others can be added to the litigation as interested or intervening parties.

Spare a thought for Jason Coppel QC, tasked with defending the (new) defendant — the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis — against all those claimants.

He was asked a number of grilling questions by Leveson as the judge tried to discern exactly what the government’s intentions on leaving the EU might be, something of a grey area, to put it mildly.

Not impressed by Coppel’s sometimes fumbled answers, Leveson told him to “articulate in a language that is clear”, which made the court chuckle.

The proceedings took a more somber turn in an exchange between Pannick and the judges’ bench about the “racist, anti-Semitic and objectionable” abuse directed at law firm Mishcon de Reya.

The court said this has deferred would-be claimants from bringing actions and, in fact, may amount to contempt of court and certainly amounted to criminal behaviour.

The next hearing will be in October. The preliminary hearing date is the 17 October.

If the losing party decides to appeal this decision, it’s possible the Supreme Court will hear a leapfrog appeal by the end of 2016. This expedited procedure is necessary to ensure the courts are in line with the government’s timetable for invoking article 50.