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From Braveheart to #Bundlegate: 5 OMG moments from the Supreme Court’s week in the spotlight

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The best of the action from Boris Johnson’s legal reckoning

Boris Johnson, James Eadie QC, Lady Hale, David Pannick QC and Gina Miller

So how was that for you? Yesterday the Supreme Court wrapped up a three-day hearing on the very meaning of the British constitution in what is already being billed as its most significant case since, well, the last Miller judgment. A decision is expected early next week. In this article, we will engage in a careful analysis of the competing submissions, with reference to the supporting documents where appropriate, in order to pronounce on the likely outcome.

Lol jk, you can get all that in 50-part threads on legal Twitter. Here’s a bunch of weird and wonderful things that went down during the hearing.

1. When Aidan O’Neill QC went full-on Braveheart

As the Guardian‘s John Crace described it. O’Neill, who was defending the Scottish Court of Session’s decision that the government’s recent suspension of parliament was unlawful, is a QC both north and south of the border. But there’s no doubt which team he supports during the Six Nations, as O’Neill opened by mentioning the Battle of Bannockburn, Robert Burns, the Church of Scotland and Walter Scott (“he invented Scottishness”, don’t you know).

His opponent, Sir James Eadie QC, was super impressed.

Sir James Eadie QC alongside Aidan O’Neill QC

O’Neill did stick in a few regular legal submissions, taking a moment to slate a previous judgment by Lord Carnwath (“how to win friends and influence people”, Hale commented). But he went all out for a big finish, warning the justices not to “let this case be your Dred Scott moment” — a reference to when the US Supreme Court decided that black people had no rights — before intoning that “what we’ve got here is the mother of parliaments shut down by the father of lies”.

Mic. Drop.

2. The justices tore Ronan Lavery QC a new one

Spare a thought for Belfast silk Ronan Lavery, who was pitched into the fray at short notice with a brief from Northern Ireland. He argued that the region would be particularly badly affected by the no deal Brexit that prorogation might enable, but the justices peppered him with questions about whether any of this was legally relevant.

“I’m afraid you’ve lost me as to the relevance of this”, one justice said. “The purpose of this hearing is not to rehearse the pros and cons of Brexit”, another pointed out. “Completely irrelevant”, harrumphed a third.

When Lavery failed to take the hint, Lord Wilson lost the head (in Supreme Court justice terms, anyway). “Don’t abuse our politeness and don’t abuse Lady Hale’s patience”, he told Lavery. Surely the most withering judicial putdown ever broadcast live on Sky News.

3. Will the real Lord Pannick please stand up?

David Pannick QC, by contrast, doesn’t seem to have bad days at the office. Enraptured lawyers compared him to Messi, Federer, Zidane, Michael Jordan.

Some people, though, were more taken by the Pannick look-a-like sitting behind the great man. Not a stunt double, as it turns out, but Mishcon de Reya partner James Libson.

And, yes, of course there are Lord Pannick memes.

4. Lady Hale’s technical woes

Just in case anyone was having too much fun, Lady Hale managed to subtly remind the viewing public of the abject state of court IT.

5. #Bundlegate

The hearing wasn’t the greatest advertisement for the efficiency of the courts in general, it must be said. Pannick was only getting into his stride on the opening morning when it emerged that his bundles of documents submitted to the court were a mess. As Hale & Co patiently tried to find the references, the junior solicitor responsible was frantically Googling flights to Outer Mongolia.

Lord Pannick clocked up half a dozen grovelling apologies in as many minutes before, eventually, Emily from Mishcons rode to the rescue with updated bundles.

Praise God for Emily!

Lawyers everywhere had the same reaction: there but for the grace of Lady Hale go I.

Never a dull moment!

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20 Comments

Anon

Presumably this headline is self-parody?

No one could write that about a vitally important case and think “Hits the right issues, might be a Pulitzer in it”.

(3)(3)

B

Your FT subscription run out?

(10)(0)

QMUL LLB BCL OXON

Oh my god thank you LC for this important contribution to English Common Law Jurisprudence.

(3)(5)

Is that an oxymoron?

“QMUL LLB BCL OXON”

(3)(0)

QMUL LLB BCL OXON

Not really, it’s easy to get in when you get first and dean’s list three years in a row as well along with mooting prizes.

(0)(13)

Anon

Translation: “I got on my knees and did the necessary”.

(15)(1)

QMUL LLB BCL OXON

you mean study? Because that’s also how i got a (Dist)

Ronan

Classic degree laundering. Nobody is fooled that you are Oxbridge. You are not. You are only Oxbridge if you went there as an undergraduate.

(23)(7)

MA (Oxon)

Quite. You are one of those people who didn’t go to Oxford at undergrad level but always falsely say “Oxford” when asked where you went to uni. The correct answer is “London”. (The best way to catch these people out is to ask when they were “at Oxford”. When they indicate only a year’s period, you then ask where they (really) went to uni.)

LLB QMUL BCL OXON

I never said i was Oxbridge bred. Did i say i was? I merely noted my background and you got your knickers in a twist. I also provided my bachelors institution so im hardly “one of those people.”

LLB QMUL BCL OXON

@ MA(OXON) Sorry for taking your place on the bcl. Its not my fault your prestigious uni thinks a first class qmul llb is better than a 2:1 MA

BA (Cantab)

@ LLB QMUL BCL OXON

Of course, if you were Oxford bred you would know it would most likely be a 2:1 BA at the time of application for the BCL.

LLB QMUL BCL OXON

Did your tutors at cambridge teach you to write like an illiterate? Probably at one of the awful new colleges like murray edwards and yet you would only put Cambridge. That in fact makes me more honest than you

Passer by

And yet here you’re spending Friday morning arguing with a stranger on the internet

(14)(1)

Tom

Why don’t counsel or those hearing the case wear wigs in the Supreme Court?

(4)(1)

Oliver

I love the notion that a solicitor from a West End firm could be Pannick’s double. Not quite in the same intellectual league.

(13)(4)

Yog

Love the snobbery of the Bar – not only a “solicitor” but “West End”.

(16)(0)

Amberlynn

I just rofled so hard when the bundles where handed over I was like omg zomg teehee!

(3)(2)

Bundy

With an experience of a less than impressed judge when he did not have the bundle he wanted in front of him, I can understand the terror that ensues when this happens.

A slightly prejudicial view is that it almost decides the case there and then.

(1)(0)

LC quality

Dross

(1)(0)

Comments are closed.

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