The costs of Scotland’s ‘Victorian’ Justice System : Court of Session judges paid £6.1 million as litigants struggle to obtain hearing dates

12 Aug

Lord Hamilton judicialScotland’s Chief Judge, the Lord President, Lord Hamilton. SCOTS LITIGANTS who in some cases can spend many years waiting to gain dates for their cases to be heard in Scotland’s highest court, the Court of Session, may wish to spare a thought for the workload of the 34 Senators of the College of Justice (the Judges), who receive, (according to a Freedom of Information release from the Scottish Government), a collective annual salary of just over £6.1 million to keep Scots justice & the Court of Session rolling, ensuring justice is delivered as swiftly as is practicable in Scotland’s aging, sometimes dubbed ‘Victorian justice system’.

Admittedly, the ‘swiftness’ of the delivery of verdicts from the 34 judges can vary wildly, if for instance, the subject matter of the cases being heard involves those so-called ‘pillars’ of Scots public life, such as the legal, financial, or medical professions, public services, or public authorities, where cases have been known to drag on for years, astoundingly some even for over a decade.

As attitudes to justice change, along with public expectations of a more modern, functioning, fairer justice system – expectations recognised by the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill in his excellent Civil Courts Review, perhaps its time for the Senators of the College of Justice to take a firmer hand against those same professions, public bodies & the like who regularly use Scotland’s highest court as a tool to deny justice to many individuals maligned by the many serious issues which merit the courts attention …

Salaries of Scotland’s 34 Judges of the Court of Session, who each earn more than the UK Prime Minister :

Inner House

First Division

Lord Hamilton, the Lord President (Civil) and the Lord Justice General receives £214,165.00 p.a.
Lord Kingarth, Lord Eassie, Lord Reed & Lord Hardie each receive £196,707.00 p.a.

Second Division

Lord Gill, Lord Justice Clerk receives £206,857.00 p.a.
Lord Osborne , Lady Paton, Lord Carloway, Lord Clarke & Lord Mackay of Drumadoon each receive £196,707.00 p.a.

Outer House (all 23 judges receive £172,753.00 p.a.)

Lord Bonomy, Lord Menzies, Lord Drummond Young, Lord Emslie, Lady Smith, Lord Brodie, Lord Bracadale, Lady Dorrian, Lord Hodge, Lord Glennie, Lord Kinclaven, Lord Turnbull, Lady Clark of Calton, Lord Brailsford, Lord Uist, Lord Malcolm, Lord Matthews, Lord Woolman, Lord Pentland, Lord Bannatyne, Lady Stacey, Lord Tyre, & Lord Doherty

Background Information from the Scottish Courts website :

The Court of Session, Scotland’s supreme civil court, sits in Parliament House in Edinburgh as a court of first instance and a court of appeal. An appeal lies to the House of Lords or, from 1st October 2009, to the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. The origins of the court can be traced to the early sixteenth century. The court presently consists of judges who are designated “Senators of the College of Justice” or “Lords of Council and Session”. Each judge takes the courtesy title of “Lord” or “Lady” followed by their surname or a territorial title. The court is headed by the Lord President, the second in rank being the Lord Justice Clerk.

For the purposes of hearing cases, the court is divided into the Outer House and the Inner House. The Outer House consists of 24 Lords Ordinary sitting alone or, in certain cases, with a civil jury. They hear cases at first instance on a wide range of civil matters, including cases based on delict (tort) and contract, commercial cases and judicial review. The judges cover a wide spectrum of work, but designated judges deal with intellectual property disputes. Special arrangements are made to deal with commercial cases.

The Inner House is in essence the appeal court, though it has a small range of first instance business. It is divided into the First and the Second Divisions, of equal authority, and presided over by the Lord President and the Lord Justice Clerk respectively. Judges are appointed by the Lord President and Lord Justice clerk with the consent of the Secretary of State. Each division is made up of five Judges, but the quorum is three. Due to pressure of business an Extra Division of three judges sits frequently nowadays. The Divisions hear cases on appeal from the Outer House, the Sheriff Court and certain tribunals and other bodies. On occasion, if a case is particularly important or difficult, or if it is necessary to overrule a previous binding authority, a larger court of five or more Judges may be convened.

Usually a case will be presented by an advocate, who is also referred to as “counsel”, but a case may also be presented by a solicitor-advocate. Advocates are members of the Faculty of Advocates and have a status and function corresponding to that of a barrister in England. Advocates once had an exclusive right of audience in the Court of Session but, since 1990, they share that right with solicitor-advocates. Solicitor-advocates are members of the Law Society of Scotland. They are experienced solicitors who obtain an extension of their rights of audience by undergoing additional training in evidence and in the procedure of the Court of Session. In addition a practitioner from another member state of the European Union may appear for a client in the circumstances prescribed by the European Communities (Services of Lawyers) Order 1978. An individual who is a party to a case may conduct his own case but a firm or a company must always be represented by counsel or by a solicitor-advocate.

The decisions of the Court of Session are reported in Session Cases (cited as 1999 S.C. 100), Scots Law Times (cited as 1999 SLT 100) and Scottish Civil Law Reports (cited as 1999 SCLR 100). Decisions since the winter term of 1998 are available on the Opinions page.

One omission worth a note : No mention yet of McKenzie Friends helping out the many unrepresented party litigants, even though the Lord President enacted the Act of Sederunt on 15 June 2010 allowing lay assistance in the Court of Session …


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