Law students rejoice, the appeal courts have been told to write shorter judgments

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By Katie King on

Fingers crossed this means less reading


The Court of Appeal has been told by one of the country’s top judges to keep their judgments snappy, and the court is listening.

In a move that will delight tired-eyed law students, Sir Terence Etherton — aka our guardian angel — has urged appeal judges to give “short-form” judgments where appropriate. ‘Appropriate’ in this context means there are no issues of law, principle or wider general significance in the case. It also means the relevant facts have been set out in a lower court’s judgment and aren’t disputed in the appeal at hand.

Appeal judges have taken this guidance on board. A Court of Appeal judgment published on Tuesday included these glorious words:

This is a short-form judgment which, with the encouragement of Sir Terence Etherton, judges of the Court of Appeal may in future use for appellate decisions in appropriate cases.

The case in question — BS (Congo) v Secretary of State for the Home Department — concerned an African immigrant and whether or not he should be deported. The court dismissed the government’s appeal and ruled he could not be removed from the country, despite being convicted of a crime.

This is a thorny area of law where lengthy discussion was no doubt possible; even Lady Justice Rafferty herself noted this was a “finely balanced case”. However, her judgment totalled just 24 short paragraphs, to which her colleagues — Lord Justice McFarlane and Lord Justice Hamblen — merely added “I agree” and “I also agree” respectively. Law student bliss.

With the Court of Appeal firmly on board, Legal Cheek wonders whether the Supreme Court will take Master of the Rolls Etherton’s advice and keep their judgments to the point. Let’s not forget its recent Brexit legal challenge judgment was nearly 100 pages long. Think of the poor constitutional law students.

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