Former Top Judge hits back at current Top Judge

17 February 2012 by

Sir Stephen Sedley, until last year of the Court of Appeal, has launched a stinging rebuttal to the speech of Lord Sumption (Jonathan Sumption QC as was) in which the soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice rebuked the judiciary for failing to stay out of the political arena.

This blog covered Lord Sumption’s speech here. Sir Stephen’s response in the London Review of Books takes issue with Lord Sumption’s assertion of excessive judicial interference in political matters, with the words:

there is a repeated insinuation that judicial interference in the political process regularly occurs: ‘The judicial resolution of inherently political issues is difficult to defend.’ It is not only difficult to defend; it does not happen.

Sir Stephen deconstructs the purported examples of excessive interference cited in Lord Sumption’s speech with a view to demonstrating that they are no such thing, leading him to castigate the Supreme Court Justice for presenting “exiguous evidence” in support of his thesis (a serious criticism of any lawyer, let alone one who is also an esteemed historian).

This, after accusing his Lordship of conflating government and legislature

in order to suggest that both ought to be equally immunised by their democratic credentials from judicial oversight.

The broadside is rounded off with the opinion that Lord Sumption’s critique

harms the standing of the judiciary and confidence in the law.

The debate rages on.

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1 comment;


  1. Corrupted Mind says:

    After reading Sumptions piece I hoped that one of the “big brains” of the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal would pen something to really debunk some of the more dangerous propositions advanced. Thankfully, Sedley dusted off his pen and really lanced the boil. I doubt it will stop reporters from doorstepping the Lord Chief with accusations that “x Judge” is being “political” just like “Sumption said” but at least now it will be in the legal consciousness that Sumptions arguments rather than representing absolute truth were just “my learned friends submissions”.

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