Former Lord President who became Supreme Court judge, Lord Rodger dies after a short illness. LORD RODGER, the former Lord President of the Court of Session who found the Law Society lied over dishonesty claims in a famous case involving former Edinburgh solicitors Gordon & Maria Thomson who were hounded out the profession for taking too much legal aid business, and who went on to become a judge in the UK Supreme Court, itself recently involved in controversial rulings on Scottish Human Rights cases which have changed the face of Scotland’s notoriously corrupt, antiquated legal system, has died after a short illness, it has been announced.
Lord Alan Rodger studied at the University of Glasgow, graduating with an MA, and at the University’s School of Law, taking an LLB. He became an advocate in 1974 and was Clerk of the Faculty of Advocates from 1976 to 1979. He was a Member of the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland from 1981 to 1984, and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1985.He was an Advocate Depute from 1985 to 1988 and was appointed Solicitor General for Scotland in 1989, being promoted to Lord Advocate in 1992, at which time he became a life peer as Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, of Earlsferry in the District of North East Fife, and was appointed to the Privy Council.
Lord Rodger was appointed a Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the High Court of Justiciary and Court of Session, in 1995, and became Lord Justice General and Lord President in 1996. He was appointed a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 2001, upon the retirement of Lord Clyde. He and nine other Lords of Appeal in Ordinary became Justices of the Supreme Court upon that body’s inauguration on 1 October 2009.
Among the many rulings Lord Rodger will be remembered for, is that of the famous case where former Edinburgh solicitors, Gordon & Maria Thomson, who were hounded out of the Scottish legal profession by establishment elements and the Law Society of Scotland for taking ‘too much’ of the legal aid business. In a ruling on a petition to the nobile officium, Lord Rodger, then the Lord President, along with Lords Coulsfield & Marnoch, found the Law Society of Scotland, who had rigged an investigation into the Thomsons, and subsequent hearings before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal which struck off the Thomsons as solicitors, had not removed allegations of dishonesty which were part of the Law Society’s concerted effort to strike down the Thomson’s popular legal business. The ruling from Lord Rodger and his colleagues on the bench stated :
This petition to the nobile officium by Gordon Thomson and Maria Thomson comes before the court on a motion for a first order for service. Among those upon whom service is sought are the President and Council of the Law Society of Scotland. It appears, however, that a copy of the petition was faxed to the Law Society some days ago and in any event the existence of the petition was reported in the press. The Law Society were accordingly represented at the hearing by Mr. Macdonald, Q.C.
The petitioners were the subject of proceedings in the Solicitors Discipline Tribunal, the hearing in which took place over several days in 1994 and 1995. On 22 March the Fiscal and the petitioners reached a substantial measure of agreement and the proceedings were adjourned until 5 April 1995. After sundry procedure, the Tribunal issued an interlocutor on 7 April and on 8 June 1995 they issued their formal Findings which comprised seventeen numbered paragraphs. In due course the petitioners appealed to this court. Their appeal came before an Extra Division who allowed it and remitted the matter to the Tribunal. In the opinion delivered by Lord Prosser, in a passage which we do not repeat but which was based on the submissions made at the hearing of the appeal, the court indicated that they were not satisfied that all the allegations of personal dishonesty against the petitioners had been withdrawn. In the present petition the petitioners state that the position of the Fiscal at the original hearing before the Tribunal was, and the position of the Fiscal at the new hearing is, that all such allegations have been withdrawn. The petitioners therefore ask the court to exercise the nobile officium and inter alia: “to hold that the Opinion of the Court should be recalled and re-written omitting any imputation of personal dishonesty by either Petitioner and publicised accordingly….”
However great the powers of this court may be, we cannot rewrite history. Nor can any interlocutor recall the words of an opinion or unsay what the court has said in an opinion which has been issued. The petition is therefore self-evidently incompetent.
None the less, as the petitioners point out, the opinion of the court has been published on the Internet and elsewhere. If the Law Society’s position is actually that the Fiscal at the original hearing withdrew the allegations of personal dishonesty and that the Society do not allege personal dishonesty, then it is proper that this state of affairs should be given equivalent publicity. In the course of the short hearing we accordingly asked Mr. Macdonald to clarify the position of the Law Society. He readily did so. Based on what he told us, for the avoidance of doubt, we record that the Law Society of Scotland agree that the findings of the Discipline Tribunal issued on 8 June 1995, so far as inferring personal dishonesty on the part of the petitioners, did not reflect the pleas tendered by the petitioners and accepted by the Fiscal and those findings should therefore not have been made by the Tribunal.
Former solicitors Gordon & Maria Thomson were targeted in a fit up by the Law Society of Scotland over their law business. Gordon and Maria Thomson were originally struck off in 1995 after a 16-day tribunal hearing over what many now see as widely fabricated allegations by the Law Society of Scotland of a “substantial catalogue” of professional misconduct. The couple had become widely known through television commercials which featured Mr Thomson in biking leathers, astride a Harley- Davidson motor cycle. They were judged by the Law Society to have been too hungry for fees and to have run their Edinburgh practice in a manner which allegedly brought the profession into disrepute. Their firm, Gordon Thomson & Co, operated from the Sighthill shopping centre in Edinburgh. It also had branch offices, dubbed “law cafes”, in Methil and Glenrothes in Fife. In his advertising Thomson portrayed himself as a champion of the underdog, and clients were called “friends”. His theme tune was Tina Turner’s Simply The Best. The offices were run almost as drop-in centres where members of the public could go for a coffee and a talk with one of the staff. The Law Society condemned this as soliciting clients of other lawyers and thus decided to kill off their business, and practising certificates.
Unbeknown to myself at the time, a firm of Edinburgh solicitors who were representing me in the case of the crooked Scottish Borders solicitor, Andrew Penman, and my attempt to take the Law Society of Scotland to court, had been appointed to wind up the Thomson’s legal practice by the Law Society. One of the firm’s solicitors went onto confess the whole thing had been about money, because many Edinburgh law firms were anxious the Thomson’s were taking their business, and particularly the legal aid money which effectively subsidises some of Edinburgh’s most noted, if most useless and sometimes most crooked, law firms.
Law Society’s Chief Executive Douglas Mill & Philip Yelland, head of Client Relations during the fit up of the Thomsons. It is worth noting that throughout the Law Society of Scotland’s determined pursuit of the Thomsons, its Chief Executive was Douglas Mill, who was forced to resign his position after video footage of a confrontation between Mill & the Scottish Government’s Finance Secretary John Swinney at a 2006 meeting of Holyrood’s Justice 2 Committee was published on the internet. It is also worth noting the same individuals who were wrapped up in the Thomson case, Mr Mill & Philip Yelland, the Law Society of Scotland’s Client Relations & Regulation Chief at the time of the Thomson case, were both also involved in the same highly personalised & bitter pursuit of myself, blocking all my attempts to take Andrew Penman, his law firm Stormonth Darling, the Master Policy, and the Law Society of Scotland to the Court of Session.
Scotland’s serving & previous Lord Advocates issued their own tribute to Lord Rodger in a Press Release from the Crown Office :
Speaking of Mr Rodger, Frank Mulholland QC, Dame Elish Angiolini QC and Lord Boyd of Duncansby QC issued a joint statement saying: “It is with great sadness that we have learnt of Alan Rodger’s death. Those of us who have had the privilege of working with or appearing before him held him in the highest regard.”
“His sharp intellect allied to his humanity and humility made him one of the great Lord Advocate and Lord Presidents. Scotland’s legal profession is poorer for his passing. He bore his illness with great courage and has left a legacy of significant jurisprudential thinking which will stand Scotland well for many years to come. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”
In tribute to Lord Rodger, Cameron Ritchie, President of the Law Society of Scotland said: “Lord Rodger was an eminent and distinguished figure within the Scottish legal profession. He held some of Scotland’s most distinguished positions, including Lord Advocate and Lord President, where he demonstrated immense ability and intellect. “His more recent role as a member of the UK Supreme Court; one of only two Scottish Judges served to underline his considerable contribution, not only to the justice system but to society as a whole. Above all he was a great ambassador for the Scottish legal profession and someone who will be greatly missed.”
Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, who recently launched highly personalised attacks on the Supreme Court judges over their ruling in the Nat Fraser case, delivered his own commentary on Lord Rodger’s death, saying : “Lord Rodger made an outstanding contribution to public life in Scotland over many years both as a judge and as Lord Advocate. He was held in the highest regard by all those who worked with him in public service, and dedicated himself to the interests of justice during a long and hugely influential career.”
Yet in early June, the First Minister and his Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill publicly criticised the Supreme Court & its judges, (two of whom were Scottish, Lord Hope and Lord Rodger, now deceased) of being part of a ”court in London that is made up of a majority of judges who do not know Scots Law, who may have visited here for the Edinburgh Festival”.
Mr MacAskill went on to threaten to withdraw funding for the Supreme Court, saying : “When I go to the Law Society I say that I will not routinely fund ambulance-chasing lawyers. It should be said that I am not going to pay for ambulance-chasing courts. As a Government we have to pay for the Supreme Court of the UK and I think they should recognise that we’ll pay for our fair share of what goes there. But I am not paying money that would come out of the police budget, or prison budget or community payback budget because they are routinely taking cases that we as a country do not think should be going there. He who pays the piper, as they say, calls the tune.”