Saturday, 21 May 2011

Lord Collins of Mapesbury

On 7th May, Supreme Court Justice Lord Collins of Mapesbury reached what a good friend of mine used to call the "statutory age of senility" meaning that his retirement, at age 70, as a full time judge was enforced by law.  Lord Collins is notable in being the only solicitor to have ever reached the top of the legal profession both as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary - (appointed in 2009, he was the 111th such appointment) - and then as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the U.K. upon its commencement in October 2009. 

The President of the Supreme Court, Lord Phillips, told a glittering gathering of the legal establishment at the Inner Temple: "We at the Supreme Court bitterly resent his going. His many qualities have enriched our lives. His outstanding legal knowledge and wisdom has enriched our judgments...and he is an infallible source of advice on which films must not be missed."

Lord Collins will
sit until July and can continue to sit in retirement as an additional justice - which will be needed as the court is two down, with Lord Rodger of Earlsferry unwell and Jonathan Sumption, QC, not taking up his new post until the next year.

Lord Collins is acknowledged to be the leading legal expert on the difficult subject of private international law.  It is interesting to watch this short part of a House of Lords debate on judicial retirement ages.  Lord Collins’ “CV” may be read on the Supreme Court website where he is now described as an “Acting Justice.”  In 2010, Lord Collins was awarded by the London Law Society with a Lifetime Achievement Award and he can be seen on this link speaking of his time as a solicitor with the firm of Herbert Smith and starting as an articled clerk in 1966 on £500 per year.  That is around the time that £1000 p.a. (approx. £20 per week) was emerging as very good remuneration.  This short article by the Columbia Law School is worth reading.

Is age 70 right for the retirement of Judges and Magistrates?  At one time, judges had a freehold on office and there were some immensely elderly men – (they were all men) – on the bench.  A return to a retirement age of 75 for Supreme Court Justices has been suggested by Lord Pannick QC.

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