Thursday, October 01, 2009

First Day of New United Kingdom Supreme Court

Today was the first day of business for the new Supreme Court in the United Kingdom, now that country's highest court.

The House of Lords no longer exercises any judicial function as the highest appellate court of the United Kingdom since July 30th, 2009.

There is even a blog devoted to the infant institution: UKSC Blog.

For background:
  • It took 142 years, but at last Bagehot has got his way -The birth of the supreme court is not just for show. The removal of judges from parliament is a victory for liberty and law (The Guardian, July 30, 2009): "There was no mob to be seen or heard in the House of Lords this week. No sign of a tumbril, or the guillotine either. The untoppled throne still glistened as it always does amid the dark grandeur of Pugin's neo-gothic debating chamber. Voices were, as usual, respectful and measured. Yet be in no doubt that the handful of us who watched or participated in this week's proceedings were in the midst of a very British constitutional revolution. For the past threedays the judicial committee of the House of Lords – that's the 12 law lords to you and me – has been winding up 133 continuous years of lawful business in the Palace of Westminster. Yesterday, in a mix of rulings that ranged from Debbie Purdy's assisted suicide application to the argument about which member of Procul Harum owns the royalties to A Whiter Shade of Pale, the lords delivered their last judgments. A Michelangelo-style day of wrath, though, this was not. In most respects it was judicial business as usual."
  • A potted history of the Law Lords (BBC News, July 30, 2009): "As the Law Lords ruled on Thursday that there must be a clarification of the law on assisted suicide, following a legal challenge by multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy, they were handing down their final judgements from the House of Lords. At the same time, an ancient constitutional anomaly was coming to an end. "
  • New Home (The Lawyer, July 15, 2009): "In 1876 the Appellate Jurisdiction Act created the judicial function of the House of Lords, the highest court in England and Wales. At the end of the month the Law Lords will pack up their judicial robes and wigs for the summer break, but they will have heard their last case in the House of Lords. When they return in October they will be supreme justices in the newly opened Supreme Court, sitting in Middlesex Guildhall in Parliament Square. On the surface it appears to be little more than a symbolic move, but in reality it marks the beginning of a new era for the judiciary, which is determined to highlight its transparency credentials."
  • UK Supreme Court judges sworn in (BBC, October 1st, 2009): "The £59m Supreme Court has opened six years after it was first announced. Its first members were - until last month - the Law Lords who would have otherwise heard the same cases in the House of Lords. But the constitutional change that led to the Supreme Court's creation means that Parliament's lawmakers and the judges charged with overseeing legislation have been separated."
  • Five things about the Supreme Court (BBC, October 1, 2009): "The £59m court is situated opposite the Houses of Parliament at the renovated Middlesex Guildhall (...) The air of formality is lifted by the bright carpet, designed by Sir Peter Blake, a pop artist best known for his work on the cover of the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band album."
  • Supreme court: Britain's October revolution (editorial, The Guardian, October 1, 2009): "The bigger question is whether today marks a substantive change in the way the highest court of the land does its work, perhaps putting the judges on an institutional collision course with government, with potentially dramatic consequences. Under the terms of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 which established the supreme court, there is no reason why this should be so."
  • Justices swear themselves in as Supreme Court opens (The Times, October 1, 2009): "Yes, yes, but what about the hats? As the Justices sat at the semi-circular bench in Court 1 in front of a small but select audience of their families and court staff — the room had more the air of a register office wedding than the crucible of legal history — it was immediately noticeable that the 10 male Justices were all bare-headed while the one female Justice, Baroness Hale of Richmond, wore a hat, a soft, low-brimmed black velvet number. Was this a reflection of some arcane nugget of historic symbolism, a tradition so long established that its origins are all but forgotten? No: apparently Lady Hale just fancied wearing a hat. Lord Phillips said: 'We had some discussion as to whether we would have hats. She thought she would like to have a hat. The rest of us thought we would not'. "

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:42 pm


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