Lords Neuberger and Clarke leave Supreme Court bench, but not before colleagues tell funny stories about them

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By Katie King on

The court’s TripAdvisor rating, The Beatles and Legal Cheek all name checked in today’s valedictory ceremony

Applause for Lord Clarke and Lord Neuberger

Anyone who’s anyone in the legal profession gathered in the Supreme Court this morning to pay tribute to president Lord Neuberger and justice Lord Clarke, who will both be retiring next month.

It was an emotional time. Lord Clarke, referred to throughout as Tony, admitted during his address there was a risk he’d burst in to tears. David Neuberger said the debt he owes to his family for helping him through his judicial career is “incalculable”, and that he’s “a very lucky man” to have such an amazing wife and children.

However there were more laughs than tears, with the valedictory speeches drawing some interesting, even cheeky, moments. Humble brag time: Legal Cheek got a mention for our article on David’s love of hip-hop.

As for funny anecdotes we learnt, for example, that Tony has The Beatles to thank for his 50-year marriage to his wife, Rosie.

The courtroom giggled as Lady Hale recalled a young Rosie and some friends went to a Beatles show and were on “such a high” they decided to pop round to see one of their boyfriends (a flat mate of Tony’s). The men agreed to let Rosie and co in if they did the washing up. “Rosie tells me she’s been doing the washing up ever since,” soon-to-be president Hale said. (Tony later revealed Rosie never did do the washing up that night.)

Courtroom 1 of the Supreme Court — full of top lawyers such as the Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, Lady Justice Hallett, Lord Keen of Elie and Lord Phillips — also learnt that Tony is a keen golf and hockey player. Long term pal and colleague Sir David Steel laughed as he recalled Tony used to be nicknamed ‘Chopper Clarke’ on the Dulwich hockey field.

As for “human whirlwind” David, Hale said he: “needs to be constantly busy and constantly on the move.” He even decided to learn the words to most of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas while studying for his chemistry A-level.

The room snickered as Hale revealed the plight of the poor artist painting David’s Lincoln’s Inn portrait. He’s currently 17 sittings in, simply because David doesn’t like keeping still.

An emotional Lord Neuberger this morning

But funny anecdotes aside, today was a day to chuck praise at the two retiring justices. Hale said Tony is “a fine lawyer and a fine judge”, whose secretary, Jackie, is “devastated” he’ll be leaving. Robert Bourns, head of the Law Society, thanked him for his “immense contribution to commercial and maritime law.”

James Eadie QC — who represented the government in the Gina Miller case — said David possessed the “underrated judicial quality of kindness”, while Karon Monaghan QC credited him with the Supreme Court’s excellent TripAdvisor rating. Hale said he’s a wise communicator who is totally committed to the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, who “has tried to make every justice feel like he or she is valued.” She finished:

I very sorry to see him [David] and Tony go, but they go with our heartfelt thanks for everything they have done.

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