Supreme court

The rule of law has become the rule of lawyers

Is that enormous silver spider that Lady Hale wore her badge of office? If so, it is appropriate. The Supreme Court has decided to tie up the government in a web of legal reasoning so tight that it can no longer govern. In his dissenting judgment in the earlier Miller case about Article 50, Lord Reed warned that ‘the legalisation of political issues is not always appropriate and may be fraught with risk, not least for the judiciary’. Unusually — as if to compensate for these words — his name was joined with that of Lady Hale in giving the judgment on Tuesday. He would have done better to heed his

Rod Liddle

There is only one law: there must be no Brexit

You’re surprised? Really? What are you surprised by? The specifics — that 11 non-elected, mostly public-school-educated judges, and doubtlessly Remainers I’d guess, should put the final nail into the lid of Brexit? Yeah, sure — that knocked me for six. Never saw that coming. Or was it the generality that surprised you — we’re not getting Brexit after all? If it’s the latter, I don’t think there’s much hope for you. What seemed to me fairly plain on 24 June 2016 — that they, meaning our liberal establishment, would never let it happen — became an absolute certainty by the turn of this year. By January it was either no

Katy Balls

The torture chamber: how opposition MPs plan to humiliate Boris

When Jeremy Corbyn declared at Labour conference that his party would only allow an election once no deal had been taken off the table, MPs began to wonder if it could be put off until the new year. The Prime Minister’s tormentors can’t agree when exactly they would like to go to the country, but all agree that there are plenty of ways to torture Boris Johnson. It’s as good a way as any to pass the time. The Tories no longer have a working majority, so these opposition MPs — aided by activist Speaker John Bercow — now hold the power. What will they do? Well, the Conservatives are meant

Alexander Pelling-Bruce

Has the Supreme Court handed Boris Johnson a Brexit escape route?

The Supreme Court’s judgement is the latest constitutional perversion after the Benn act. But ironically it may assist the Government in achieving its objective of Britain leaving the EU by 31 October, without having to seek an extension to the Article 50 process. In paragraph 34, the Supreme Court states that its ‘proper function’ under our constitution is to give effect to the separation of powers (which justifies court intervention in relation to prorogation). Then, in what appears to be an innocuous sentence in paragraph 55, it says that it is to be “remember[ed] always that the actual task of governing is for the executive and not for Parliament or the

Why the Court’s ruling may help Boris Johnson

In one respect Gina Miller is right. Today’s Supreme Court decision is bigger than Brexit. We are now in a civil war without bullets – between two sides who both claim to be fighting for democracy but who have very different ideas of what it entails. In the one corner are those who believe that democracy is where the electorate vote for something in a plebiscite and then government carries out its instructions; in the other corner are those who believe that democracy is Parliament and the courts acting together in what they see as the best interests of the people. As I have written here before, the correct term

James Kirkup

Brexiteers should cheer the Supreme Court

Ignore, with great respect, the people telling you today that the justices of the Supreme Court have waded into politics, exceeded their mandate and involved themselves in matters that belong to elected officials not the judiciary. Take five minutes to read the Court’s judgement on Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament, where you will find a crystal-clear elucidation of principles that everyone – but perhaps especially those who favour leaving the EU – should celebrate and defend. Before I get to that, it appears to be necessary to point out what the Court has not done and not said. The judges have not ruled that Boris Johnson lied to the Queen,

Isabel Hardman

Corbyn to address Labour conference this afternoon

Time was when the box office attraction at Labour conference was going to be Tom Watson’s speech this afternoon. The biggest drama would be activists who planned to walk out in protest at the deputy leader’s constant undermining of Jeremy Corbyn. That was before the Supreme Court verdict, of course, and now Corbyn will be speaking at 4pm, having moved his speech forward from tomorrow so that he can head back to Westminster in time for parliament returning. But there’s still some internal drama playing out: Labour’s press team said Tom Watson would be speaking tomorrow afternoon to close conference, but Watson almost immediately said he wouldn’t do this as

Why the Supreme Court’s Brexit case is so crucial

The opening session of the epic Supreme Court hearing into whether Boris Johnson misled the Queen and broke the law when proroguing parliament did not disappoint. Because Lord Pannick, for one of the plaintiffs Gina Miller, captured with the clinical precision of a brain surgeon quite what is at stake. Summing up, he asked the law ladies and lords to consider that if they were to conclude there is no case for the PM to answer, a future PM might well feel licensed to suspend parliament for six months or a year, as and when MPs become bothersome, rather than “just” the five weeks Johnson has chosen to shut down

Blow for Boris as parliament may return early

The Court of Session’s verdict that prorogation is unlawful is a major headache for Boris Johnson. It makes the Supreme Court’s decision on the matter, and the court will hear the case on Tuesday, much more unpredictable. There is now a significant chance that parliament will have to be recalled. The Supreme Court will hear all the various cases on prorogation at the same time on Tuesday, remember the government won in the High Court in London. But it will adjudicate these cases in line with the law of the court from which they came. So, it will decide the case from the Court of Session according to Scottish Law

The real RBG

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is too ill to sit on the Supreme Court. When she saw On the Basis of Sex, a hagiography written by her nephew, she must have thought she had already gone to heaven. Directed by Mimi Leder to the highest TV-movie standards, this prequel to the obsequious 2018 documentary RBG will appeal to all purchasers of the grovelling 2015 biography, Notorious RBG. The real RBG totters across the last frames of this movie like the laminated ghost of American liberalism. Such idolatry diminishes Bader Ginsburg’s achievement, the unpicking in 1971 of the first of 178 laws discriminating against you-know-who on the basis of you-know-what. But this film

Brett Kavanaugh is a Republican’s dream Supreme Court Justice

After reciting the usual homilies about the need to interpret the American Constitution as it was written, President Trump appeared visibly bored once his nominee for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, took the podium. Who could blame him? There was little Trump could do to inject much excitement into the proceedings and it’s never as much fun to make a solemn announcement as it is to rant and rave in front of tens of thousands of your pursuivants in a sports arena or to send out tweets denouncing NATO or threatening a trade war with China. To be sure, Kavanaugh had clearly been primed on how to curry favour with

Trump on the edge

Donald Trump has often wrong-footed the media. In last year’s election his campaign seemed to be always on the verge of falling apart, but it didn’t. Candidate Trump was endlessly engulfed by crisis. The media said he could not win, but he did. It’s tempting to think that the Trump presidency fits the same pattern; that all the chaos in the White House, that reports of the horrifying incompetence of his administration and his dangerously erratic behaviour are exaggerated: fake news, as he would say. But it doesn’t. Just four months in, the Trump presidency is starting to look unviable. Trump’s greatest problem is himself. He seems determined to plunge

The Spectator’s Notes | 23 February 2017

Last month, at Policy Exchange, I met a charming, quiet American general called H.R. McMaster. In conversation, I was struck by his zeal for Nato and his concern wherever the alliance is now weakest, as in Turkey. In his speech to the thinktank, he said clearly that Russia and China are attempting to ‘collapse’ the post-1945 and post-Cold War ‘political, economic and security order’, with unconventional forces hiding behind conventional ones, subversion, disinformation, propaganda, economic actions and ‘proxies’ such as organised crime networks. The situation had echoes of 1914, and the risk of a great-power war was the highest for 70 years. He emphasised that, ‘despite public comments by our

The Supreme Court’s ruling on foreign spouses is shameful

Just when you were minded to think that Supreme Court judges were a bunch of diehard liberals whose fundamentalist belief in the application of human rights overrides common sense, they deliver a judgement which makes them look like the pathetic toadies of an authoritarian government. This morning the court upheld a rule that forbids British citizens bringing a foreign spouse into the country unless they (the British citizen, not the foreign spouse) is earning at least £18,600 a year (or £22,400 if they have one or more children). I am in favour of controls on immigration, but this is a rule which stinks of discrimination and injustice. It is hard

For the sake of Britain’s constitution, will everyone please shut up?

One of the striking features of Britain’s unwritten constitution is how it relies on various people keeping their opinions to themselves. The monarch, the Speaker of the House of Commons and senior judges must all avoid expressing political views in public – or even in what one might call semi-private. It’s not their right to remain silent; it’s their responsibility. The royal family is expected to stay out of politics from birth, the Speaker is an MP who puts aside partisanship when he or she is dragged to the chair, and judges must show that they are applying the law, not advancing their own agenda. Any appearance of partiality is

What the papers say: The ‘enemies of the people’ row rumbles on

The Article 50 court cases sparked an angry backlash in the newspapers, with the judges involved famously labelled ‘enemies of the people’. Yesterday was the day the Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger hit back: Neuberger criticised politicians for being slow to defend judges and said the attacks on the justice system risked undermining the rule of law. One of his (unspoken) targets was the Daily Mail, which rallied against the ‘out of touch’ judges involved. Was the coverage too much? The Mail says not. In its editorial this morning, the paper offers a rare compliment to Neuberger, saying that his ‘outstanding intellect and integrity’ is not in question. But the paper goes

For the sake of the constitution, please shut up

One of the striking features of Britain’s unwritten constitution is how it relies on various people keeping their opinions to themselves. The monarch, the Speaker of the House of Commons and senior judges must all avoid expressing political views in public – or even in what one might call semi-private. It’s not their right to remain silent; it’s their responsibility. The royal family is expected to stay out of politics from birth, the Speaker is an MP who puts aside partisanship when he or she is dragged to the chair, and judges must show that they are applying the law, not advancing their own agenda. Any appearance of partiality is

Trump’s greatest legacy could be his power to reshape the Supreme Court

James D. Zirin is an experienced litigator as well as the host of a popular television talkshow. In this provocative polemic he uses skills developed both from behind the bar and in front of the camera to mount the charge that the US Supreme Court is a political court. How far does his evidence support his claim? In 1803 Chief Justice Marshall invented the doctrine of judicial review, by which the Supreme Court had the right to strike down Acts of Congress and executive action as inconsistent with the constitution. Inevitably, it then became involved in issues that were heavily political. In 1857 the court upheld the property rights of

For Donald Trump, politics is a primetime TV show

Donald Trump promised to bring some pizzazz to the White House. And last night he delivered, unveiling his selection for a vacant Supreme Court seat on prime time TV after teasing the American public with a reality show style whittling down of candidates. His selection, the Oxford-educated Neil Gorsuch, is an established legal mind who will sit well with Republicans. It was the sort of night Trump needed after a torrid weekend, when the bungled roll-out of an immigration overhaul energised his opponents and exposed divisions in the White House. As the new president arrived on a red carpet before Congressional Republican leaders, he reminded them exactly why he won the election,