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Lady Hale on courage

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Judges must stand up to the government and the media, says Supreme Court president

The President of the Supreme Court has called on her fellow judges to display greater courage when making unpopular decisions.

In a recent speech delivered at Worcester Cathedral, Lady Hale outlined several types of courage that judges need to show in order to “stay true” to their judicial oaths. The first type, according to Hale, is “the courage to stand up to the media”, who by reporting on a particular case, “may or may not be reflecting general public opinion”. While most senior judges do not “engage with social media or the tabloid press” and can “ignore or brush off” personal taunts, the rule of law is far more vulnerable, she said.

Continuing, Hale cited the tabloid’s scrutiny of the Miller case, which saw the Supreme Court rule against the government, requiring it to receive parliament’s approval before triggering the Brexit process. What the public and media “may not have appreciated”, Hale explained, was that the ruling safeguarded the “ascendancy” of parliamentary sovereignty and the rule of law over the powers of the executive.

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Next up, Hale argued that judges must have the courage to stand up to the government. She pointed to the recent UNISON case in which the Supreme Court held that fees for employment tribunals were unlawful as they restricted access to the courts. Citing Lord Reed’s judgement, Hale stressed the link between access to courts and the rule of law:

“Courts exist in order to ensure that the laws made by parliament, and the common law created by the courts themselves, are applied and enforced. That role includes ensuring that the executive branch of government carries out its functions in accordance with the law. In order for the courts to perform that role, people must in principle have unimpeded access to them.”

Judges must also have the courage to confront their own “prejudices, pre-conceptions and pre-dispositions” and to overcome any “conscious or unconscious sympathies for one side rather than the other,” according to Hale. They must not take “the line of least resistance rather than the riskier course” where it’s easier to do so. In practice, a morally courageous judge should not simply agree with a colleague’s leading judgement because it “looks about right”, Hale argued, but instead form an “independent view based on careful thought and reading”.

Rounding off her speech, she stressed that litigants must also have courage “to fight for what is right”, referencing the bravery shown by the dinner ladies in the case of St Helens Borough Council v Derbyshire and Others. A “classic case of ‘blaming the victims’”, Hale explained, after their employers warned of “dire consequences” if they persisted in their claims for equal pay.

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20 Comments

Anonymous

Adam I don’t connect to your Lady Hale articles as much as I do Katie’s. Your writing lacks joy. Your storytelling is generic. Long live the King.

Anonymous

Thought this was a beer advert when I saw the headline.

Drumpfenkrieg

How about standing up to left wing fake news?

Kronos

I have a tale of courage which I think is exactly what Lady Hale has in mind.

Last night, I met a fair maiden. We had been conversing via a dating app, which by court order (presently under appeal) I am presently unable to name or use. The maiden was charming, bright, and fair. I possess those first two qualities in abundance, and to make up for the third, I cunningly replaced my display picture was one of Alan Hansen making his Liverpool debut in ’77.

My ploy worked. We arrange to meet last night at a coffee house named after a Roman emperor and quasi-gifted violinist. I recognised her instantly.

‘Kronos?’ said she.

‘Aye,’ said I.

‘You don’t look anything like your picture.’

‘I look better?’ I ventured optimistically.

‘This isn’t going to work.’

She started to walk away. At this point, a lesser man would have given up. But, as I often ask myself when times are tough, what would Lady Hale do? Show courage. And so I followed her.

‘Give me a chance,’ I called.

‘You’re a fat old man!’ she replied.

‘Yes, but I am an equity partner at Greenberg Glusker LLP!’

No answer.

‘I’m a top, top titan! I bill 400,000 Malaysian ringgit per calendar month!’

No answer.

‘I have many leather-bound books and my office smells of rich mahogany! The Los Angeles Legal 500 describes me as a ‘team player’!’

Still nothing. She was walking more quickly now.

‘One of my comments on Legal Cheek got seven likes!’

She hesitated at this mighty literary accomplishment, but continued her flight.

‘I can name every single species of Amazonian hornbill!’

‘The hornbill’s distribution lies in Asia and Africa. You are thinking of the toucan,’ she replied smartly, without turning around.

Her ornithological expertise had been what drew us together in the first place. Thinking of the toucan, I extended my arms to full span and began to flap them. I tipped back my head and called into the night: ‘caw-caw, caw-caw!’ The passers-by on Regent’s Street turned and stared.

She was running now. Her admirably long legs, which had initially attracted me, proved to be my hubris. With all my energy going into beating my wings, I could not keep up. But I thought of Lady Hale.

‘Caw-caw!’ I screamed one final time.

Then the constable’s truncheon smashed into the small of my back, and I felt the handcuffs close around my wrists.

‘Lady Hale made me do it!’ I protested, ‘Alex Aldridge will hear of this!’

And now, as I sit sullenly in my cell, I wonder: Brenda, if you’re reading this, send Sumption and a couple of heavies to spring me out! Brenda, please! Oh Brenda, I was brave for you! Brenda…

Anonymous

Superb.

Anonymous

Really good, more of this please!

Anonymous

The comment section is the only reason I visit this website.

Kronos Admirer

I click on 4 posts that seem interesting; I skim 1, then scroll down to the comments, and the other 3, straight to the comments. I know I’ve scrolled well when I see input by Kronos.

Anonymous

Judges should interpret and apply the law and not imagine they are social justice warriors.

Anonymous

Should apply the law and be just.

Anonymous

Does that mean that someone who has just been wrongfully dismissed without pay is therefore not entitled to seek justice as this would be “social warrior” position?
Indeed, should a government not be held accountable if they don’t abide by the procedures they should be following?

Anonymous

Idiot.

Anonymous

Lady Hale should just go with her gut instinct. It’s in vogue at the moment.

Anonymous

ROFL: judges “must not take “the line of least resistance rather than the riskier course” where it’s easier to do so.”

So that’s what they did when they pandered to the globalists on the Brexit matter?

Right.

A fangirl

Why no pictures of Adam?

Anonymous

Judges must do judging full fresh.

Anonymous

The top qc of judicial judgements

Anonymous

Courage to criticise other judges when they get it wrong.

Courage to stop lawyers from running up huge ‘costs’ bills and trying to get the other side to pay for them.

Anonymous

does anyone else think that they cant cope with life / family / education / social life etc and crash from one mistake to another? I do.

Anonymous

Yeah, Alex Aldridge

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