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Tag Archives: UK Supreme Court

OPENNESS? LORD, NO: The day Scotland’s former top judge lashed out at America’s justice system, accusing US judges of financial ties to corporations & vested interests

US justices base their careers on corporate funds – Lord Gill. DURING a meeting at the Scottish Parliament almost one year ago, Scotland’s former Lord President & Lord Justice General launched a scathing attack on the judiciary of the United States of America, accusing top US judges of harbouring financial ties to corporations & vested interests – in order to ensure their election to judicial office.

The damning accusations against top US Justices – aired in an open session of the Scottish Parliament by Scotland’s longest serving judge – Lord Brian Gill (74) – were not in response to an international incident or some complicated round of diplomacy and trade negotiations.

Rather, Brian Gill’s pulverising attack on the integrity of the judiciary of the United States – looked upon by many as the world’s most powerful democracy – were in response to a proposal for Scottish judges to register their interests – in the very same way judges in the United States and other international jurisdictions are required to register their interests.

Answering questions from MSP Angus MacDonald, Lord Gill quipped: “I do not know that we would want to have a judiciary here that is like the one in the United States. It depends on your personal point of view. I do not give you my view, but I am sure that you can guess what it is.”

Responding to some measure of astonishment, Gill charged in and blew apart the integrity of his judicial colleagues in the US, stating: “I would be very sorry to see a judiciary in which candidates ran for election and in which candidates’ election campaigns were based on fundraising from companies and corporations that might be litigants in their courts.”

Judicial Transparency, US style, or for that – judicial transparency from any other jurisdiction, was not welcome in Scotland – according to Lord Gill.

And Gill was the expert. For as one of the shortest term serving Lord Presidents’ of modern times – he spent much of his three year term battling against proposals to require Scotland’s elite, secretive judiciary to declare their significant wealth and connections to the professions & big business as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

However, worse was to come from the notoriously anti-transparency judge, who once threatened to deny journalists access to court documents.

Lord Gill – who has since relocated to a posh seat on the UK Supreme Court based in London – was not content with lambasting US justices he accused of cuddling up to corporations for campaign cash.

In response to further questions from the Petitions Committee, Lord Gill opened up another sneering line of attack on US judges, castigating the highly valued nomination hearings of US Supreme Court justices which form a key part of the judicial process in America and are widely available to watch online, with examples such as the nomination process for famed Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Lashing out again at the almost alien concept of judicial transparency coming to Scotland, Lord Gill recoiled: “I would also be very sorry if the day ever came where, before appointment, judges had to come before a committee of this honourable legislature for confirmation and for examination of their political, ethical and social views.”

However, only weeks before Gill made his outburst against the judicial selection process in the United States, the behind closed doors approach to selecting Scottish judges – who dodge questions on their own ties to vested interests inside and outside the legal profession, was revealed in a media investigation here: TO PLAY THE PRESIDENT: Transparency, diversity & judicial reform on the cards as hunt begins for Scotland’s next top judge & Lord President of the Court of Session.

And, investigations by DOI revealed Scotland’s judiciary are themselves, no stranger to financial ties to vested interests and big banks, reported in further detail here: JUDICIAL RICH LIST: Register reveals top judges investments in dodgy justice system providers, companies linked to international bribes scandals and here: COURT BANKING, M’LORD: ‘Unworkable’ register of judicial interests reveals top judges’ financial links to world of big money, insurance giants, vested interests.

No one would ever claim the US justice system, or any justice system was perfect.

It is true, US justices do have links to corporations, and regular coverage appears in the media.

However at least in the United States and other international jurisdictions where registers of interests are required of the judiciary, court users, elected politicians, the media and public have the opportunity by right of law and expectation of transparency – to inspect their judiciary on a much more detailed level than in Scotland.

And, this is what makes the difference. Transparency. An altogether simple case to present. Nothing more complicated than openness itself.

Beware then, those who answer questions on transparency with hand gestures, demands on how to frame the questions being put to them, or using an underlying tone of aggression.

Video footage of Lord Gill’s meticulous, if short derision of judicial colleagues in the United States made clear the former Lord President’s opinion of judges who are required by law and due process to follow a path more transparent than his, and his colleagues within the Judiciary of Scotland.

Lord Brian Gill slams US judges – Top Scots judge claims US judiciary elected by vested interests

Official Record: Petitions Committee 10 November 2015

Angus MacDonald: Thank you. It was important to get that fundamental view on the record.

What is your view of the fact that the United States of America has successfully introduced a register of judicial interests? Has the system in the States increased public confidence in the judiciary?

Lord Gill: I do not know that we would want to have a judiciary here that is like the one in the United States. It depends on your personal point of view. I do not give you my view, but I am sure that you can guess what it is.

Angus MacDonald: I will not pick up on that particular point.

Has there been any evidence on the impact that the US system has had on the independence of judges or the way in which the media treats judges in the USA?

Lord Gill: I would be very sorry to see a judiciary in which candidates ran for election and in which candidates’ election campaigns were based on fundraising from companies and corporations that might be litigants in their courts. I would also be very sorry if the day ever came where, before appointment, judges had to come before a committee of this honourable legislature for confirmation and for examination of their political, ethical and social views.

The full evidence session held at the Scottish Parliament with Lord Gill on 7 November 2015 can be viewed here: Evidence of Lord Gill before the Scottish Parliament 10 November 2015 with a full report and transcript of the meeting here: JUDGE ANOTHER DAY: Sparks fly as top judge demands MSPs close investigation on judges’ secret wealth & interests.

In between refusing to give evidence to the Scottish Parliament, Lord Brian Gill spent his time on international travel, and giving a lecture on judicial ethics while on a taxpayer funded state visit to Qatar – a country not known as a haven of transparency or human rights.

Lord Gill’s Qatar expedition funded by public cash is reported in further detail here: LORD JET SET: Scotland’s top judge Lord Gill takes 5 day STATE VISIT to Qatar as investigation reveals judiciary’s international travel junkets spree.

A year on from the confrontation between Lord Gill and the Scottish Parliament – only after two refusals to give evidence – MSPs await to hear from Scotland’s current top judge Lord Carloway – who, like his predecessor, given an equally hostile opinion on the very notion of judicial transparency and requirements of judges to declare their interests.

A recent report on Lord Carloway’s opposition to judicial transparency can be found here: Top judge Lord Carloway hits out at judicial interests register proposal.

The proposals before the Scottish Parliament received cross party backing from MSPs during a full debate at Holyrood during October 2014 – Debating the Judges – call for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests containing information on judges backgrounds, their personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary.

 

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SUPREME, LORD: Scotland’s ex top judge Brian Gill who opposed Holyrood on judicial transparency & judges’ interests register – joins subs bench of UK Supreme Court

Lording it – Brian Gill moves to London. SCOTLAND’S former top judge – Lord Brian Gill who surprised the Scots legal world with the announcement of his sudden retirement in May 2015 – has been appointed to the supplementary panel of judges of the UK Supreme Court.

The UK Supreme Court today confirmed the appointment of Lord Gill to the panel of supplementary judges who sit on the London based UK Supreme Court.

A UKSC spokesperson said: “The supplementary panel on which Lord Gill is now a member has only been called upon once or twice in the last legal year. “

He added: “It is quite rare for the UKSC to invite Acting Justices to sit.”

Earlier this year, Brian Gill was invited to join the supplementary panel of judges – which can be called upon by the President of the Supreme Court to sit on specific cases where necessary.

The legislative framework for ‘Acting Justices’ on the UK Supreme Court states a person who holds the office of a senior territorial judge can be invited to act as a judge of the court at the request of the President of the Supreme Court. The legislative framework & conditions for such appointments is here: Acting judges & supplementary panel of UK Supreme Court

Now a UKSC supplementary judge – Brian Gill (73) – who became Scotland’s longest serving judge – served a short three year term as Lord President.

Gill unexpectedly stood down from the role as head of Scotland’s judiciary after waging  a bitter two year battle with the Scottish Parliament over plans to create a register of interests for judges – Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary

The judicial transparency petition which enjoys cross party support – has been the subject of a two year investigation by Holyrood and proposes the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests containing information on judges backgrounds, their personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

Scotland’s first ever Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) – Moi Ali gave the judicial transparency proposal her full backing.

During the evidence session held at Holyrood in September 2013 – Moi Ali provided a first hand, honest and highly detailed account of the workings of Scotland’s judiciary and lack of judicial transparency & accountability.

Current JCR Gillian Thompson OBE gave further support for the plan to create a register of interests for judges during an evidence session with msps at Holyrood in June 2015.

Scotland’s top judge Lord Gill did not take kindly to the transparency proposal – or the public debate around openness and accountability of the judiciary.

Gill branded the media & court users as “aggressive” and demanded judges be allowed to keep their wealth and connections to big business – a secret.

Lord Gill then refused two invitations to appear before MSPs to face questions on his hostility towards judicial transparency.

The top judge – who took increasingly aggressive positions in his hard line letters to Holyrood – also hinted he may have to reconsider how judges interact with the Scottish Parliament and claimed loopholes in the Scotland Act prevented elected politicians from calling judges to account over their hidden interests.

Previous Lord President & Lord Justice General Lord Hamilton – who was highly respected while in the role as Scotland’s top judge – joined the UKSC supplementary panel after his retirement as Lord President in 2012. Lord Hamilton has not yet sat on the panel.

In stark comparison to Lord Gill’s anti-judicial transparency policy, Lord President Lord Hamilton moved to increase transparency around judicial expenses & travel during 2010 after law journalists from Diary of Injustice – the previous version of this law blog – submitted freedom of information requests asking for judicial expenses (routinely published in England & Wales) to be made available in Scotland.

The FOI request was made to the Scottish Courts Service under the then Lord President Lord Hamilton – after the Scottish Government denied any figures existed for judicial expenses.

Some weeks after the DOI report on judicial expenses, featured in August 2010 – expenses claims of high earning Scots judges rake in at least £78K in ‘travel’ claims, Lord Hamilton amended Scottish Courts policy to publish judicial expenses figures on a quarterly basis.

The welcome move by Lord Hamilton was featured in a further article here: Part-time Sheriffs beat full-time colleagues & senior judges in expenses claims as Scots judiciary finally publish judicial expenses online.

TOP JUDGE WHO SAID NO TO TRANSPARENCY & SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT:

Scotland’s top judge Lord President Lord Brian Gill fiercely opposes calls for any form of transparency & public accountability of the judiciary and Scotland’s Courts.

Over the course of nearly two years, Scotland’s top judge Lord Gill waged an aggressive campaign against a Scottish Parliament investigation into calls for a register of judicial interests. The register proposal would reveal the judiciarys’ vast personal, undeclared wealth, extensive family and business connections throughout the legal profession, links to big business, offshore trusts & investments, ownership of numerous and high value properties through a variety of ‘creative’ arrangements, directorships, shareholdings, and even unpublished criminal records of members of the judiciary.

Lord Gill refused at least two invitations to appear before the Scottish Parliament to give evidence and face questions on his opposition to the proposal to create a register of judicial interests. The top judge has also used the Scotland Act as a loophole to avoid further scrutiny on the matter.

Lord Gill’s challenge to MSPs declared judicial opposition to transparency. In Lord Gill’s opening letter to MSPs on the call for a register of judicial interests, the judge claimed “In practical terms it would be impossible for all judicial office holders to identify all the interests that could conceivably arise in any future case. The terms of the Judicial Oath and the Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics ensure that such a difficulty does not arise and that the onus is on the judicial office holder to declare any interest at the outset.”

In what was a hint of the sheer hostility felt by the judiciary against a call to bring transparency to judges interests, Lord Gill went onto accuse the media, press, litigants, court users and just about everyone else with an interest in transparency of being potentially hostile and aggressive, simply because someone may wish to raise questions of judges interests similar to the same kinds of questions which are raised of interests in other public officials and those in public life, politics & government.

And, if MSPs were unsure of the depth of Lord Gill’s attitude towards transparency, the top judge went on to refuse to appear before the Scottish Parliament, and used a loophole in the Scotland Act to justify his sweeping declaration he did not require to answer questions from Scotland’s democratically elected politicians.

Lord Gill’s use of Scotland Act against MSPs was reported in the media. Writing in a letter to msps, Lord Gill implied cooperation with Parliament would be withdrawn over calls to make judges more transparent in register : “Section 23(7) of the Scotland Act provides inter alia that the Parliament may not require a judge to attend its proceedings for the purposes of giving evidence. This is not a loophole. It is a necessary part of the constitutional settlement by which the Parliament is established. Its purpose is to protect the independence of the judiciary, a vital constitutional principle that is declared in section 1 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008”

The judge continued: “When a committee invites a judge to give evidence before it, I have to decide whether the subject matter might infringe the principle of judicial independence; and whether the evidence required could be satisfactorily given in writing.”

As  Scotland’s top judge continued to oppose the creation of a register of interests, MSPs held a debate in the Scottish Parliament’s main chamber on Thursday 7 October 2014, which saw cross party support for the proposal. MSPs overwhelmingly supported motion S4M-11078 – in the name of Public Petitions Convener David Stewart MSP on petition PE1458, urging the Scottish Government to give further consideration to a register of interests for judges.

The parliamentary debate was reported along with  video footage & the official record, here: Debating the Judges & here : Top judge & Scottish Government told to rethink refusal on declarations of judges as Holyrood MSPs support calls to create a register of judicial interests

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Justice Diary including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary

 

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