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The dangers of judicial vanity If she doesn't like attention, why has Lady Hale written a memoir?


October 12, 2021   7 mins

For a certain sort of American liberal, the former Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become an icon. That word is now grossly overused — everything is “iconic” today — but appropriate in its original sense (a symbol of devotion, to be venerated) for the secular worship of “RBG”. Images of Ginsburg can be bought on sweatshirts, mugs and other mundane items, usually showing her “trademark” lace collar.

Ginsburg-worship is just another way to proclaim your place on the political and cultural spectrum, but it might actually have changed American history. In 2013, just as RBG memes were becoming popular, Ginsburg was urged by some supporters to step down and allow President Barack Obama and a Democratic Senate to appoint a younger liberal replacement. Then aged 80 and suffering recurrent cancer, she refused. She died in office in 2020, allowing Donald Trump and Republican senators to tilt the court, and American life, away from her values. Did enjoyment of fame contribute to her decision? Never mind the dangers of judicial vanity: there are T-shirts to sell, and virtues to signal.

Some people clearly dream of turning Brenda Hale into Britain’s RBG, a pioneering feminist lawyer and cultural symbol. These are people who spend too much time online and have #FBPE in their Twitter bio. A couple of years ago, many of them added spider emojis, too, in tribute to Hale: she is best known for wearing a spider-shaped brooch while ruling, as president of the Supreme Court, that Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament — a crude attempt to “get Brexit done” — was unlawful. In the days that followed, people seemed more interested in this “coded statement” — this “secret message” — than the unambiguous ruling, which marked the culmination of Hale’s stellar legal career. She retired not long afterwards and has now written a book that her publishers evidently hope will appeal to all those people who obsessed over her “power dressing”.

I suggest that this is her publishers’ hope because Hale doesn’t seem particularly keen on this attempt to turn her into a celebrity. Her book suggests an author somewhat resistant to the narratives that are being enthusiastically imputed to her.

One of those narratives is of social mobility and possibly even class struggle: however did a girl from a little village outside Richmond in Yorkshire (not, she says early in the book, “the sort of place where you would expect a top judge to grow up”) reach the Supreme Court? Yet Hale’s origins are hardly humble. Born in 1945, she is the daughter and granddaughter of Oxbridge graduates. Her father is head of a boys’ grammar school. Her parents take the Telegraph, invite neighbours for sherry after church, and send the handyman to collect Hale and her sister from school at lunchtime so they don’t have to eat with the village kids.

Serious, diligent and ferociously bright, Hale progresses to Cambridge with neither difficulty nor trepidation. She rightly notes that this makes her part of a tiny minority: only 4% of school-leavers went to university at the time. She also says the transition to university didn’t faze her, because this was just what her family did: it was normal. So much for that class struggle, then.

Meanwhile, Hale pays only the most superficial attention to wider issues of access to the legal professions. She offers a rose-tinted view of today’s law school as places that mean people who would never have dreamed of becoming lawyers in the past can now do so. And yet, they undeniably remain bastions of privilege, much of it inherited. The sociologists Sam Friedman and Daniel Lauriston calculate that the children of lawyers are 17 times more likely than other kids to become lawyers. A 2020 study by Bridge Group and the University of York concluded that “the legal profession remains dominated by individuals from higher socioeconomic backgrounds with students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds half as likely to attend the top English law schools as other students”.

Still, Hale seems better placed to discuss struggles not of class but of sex. Her success as a female lawyer in a male-dominated establishment is remarkable, and she deserves to be held up as a role model. But again, she seems reluctant to play the part. Her book has a striking opening, in which she writes frankly of suffering “imposter syndrome” at numerous points in her impressive career. But this candid author then quickly disappears behind a fairly dry account of her career progression. Having been set up to tell the story of a determined woman who rose to the top in the face of male chauvinism, Hale sometimes makes becoming a top judge sound almost easy.

In her telling, the closed male legal establishment actually looked after her rather well. She becomes the first ever female member of the Law Commission, despite not actually applying for the role — a more senior lawyer on the Commission nudges her into it. She becomes a judge after the traditional “tap on the shoulder” from a senior official. Further promotions sound smooth and painless. Occasionally she’s annoyed by anachronistic masculine judicial titles, silly remarks from colleagues and daft old dinner-table traditions that exclude women. But her book isn’t a tale of institutional sexism.

That’s not to say such bias doesn’t exist, and didn’t figure in Hale’s career. Rather, Hale isn’t giving us the whole story here; she often seems reluctant to talk about herself, her experiences and feelings. Her personal life is largely absent. The end of her first marriage, after 24 years, is mentioned only obliquely. Her daughter gets a handful of mentions, but there is no account of how she combined family life with a demanding job. The book is subtitled “A Life” but it would be better to say: “A Career”. Influential men, of course, when they write their memoirs, aren’t expected to explain who was looking after the kids while they were conquering the world — but given that so many women find their careers hindered by family responsibilities, Hale might be a more accessible role model if she’d addressed the subject.

That career has been driven by a truly formidable intellect — it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Hale’s rise demonstrates the old adage that a woman has to be twice as good as a man to achieve the same. But her refusal to talk about herself blunts her ability to explore sexism in the legal establishment. She’s more comfortable talking about her cases and the law itself. This is generally done dispassionately, though she reflects intriguingly that her time as a family court judge was largely spent “oppressing” women.

Perhaps she’d rather not be defined by her sex, but it’s hard not to think, reading her memoir, that an entire book by Hale on how and where the law fails women would be fascinating — and powerful. But that book wouldn’t include the prorogation case, Brexit or that spider brooch — the things that made her properly famous, and therefore the things most likely to sell copies.

Focusing on them, though, is to forget that Hale was a public figure for decades. During that time, she figured occasionally in newspaper reports. Not all of them were positive, and this rankles — she recalls not just unfriendly Daily Mail headlines about her, but the page numbers and reporters’ bylines (“On 23 October 1995 there was a front-page article by Paul Harris”). In a rare display of emotion, she says such personalised coverage is “distressing”, but insists the greater worry is journalists’ failure to understand her legal thinking.

Was this memoir written as the last word, then? Somewhere behind the veil of judicial dispassion stands a human being with the same frailties as the rest of us — including vanity and inconsistency.

Both of these are displayed in Hale’s account of the prorogation case. To my mind, the Supreme Court’s ruling was a good one, re-establishing Parliament’s constitutional primacy, and deserving of ongoing attention. But how much do we need to know about the people who gave that ruling? How much do we gain from learning that Hale wrote her findings from her house in Yorkshire, and that one of her fellow judges did the same in Sicily?

Hale herself insists that the legal principles are what really matter here — and professes exasperation with public focus on her appearance in court. “What I was wearing that day is not important,” she declares, shortly after telling us what she was wearing that day, including the spider brooch and its history. Despite her exasperation, she appears rather pleased by the people who buy T-shirts with a spider logo or wear spider badges “to show their support”. And then there’s the title of her memoir, Spider Woman, which features the famous brooch on the front cover. Hale may not like that attention on her outfit and jewellery — something a male judge, surely, would never experience — but she’s content to use it to promote her book.

Is there a touch of vanity here? I suspect so, but I don’t say that as a criticism: we are all vain creatures, and there’s no shame in that. Even the most august and dispassionate of judges may succumb to the urge to show off a bit — fame has a terrible allure. To plug her book, Hale has been doing the media circuit of broadcast and print interviews, alongside authors, actors, and influencers. And even before the prorogation case, she heard the siren call: in 2018, she appeared as a judge on Masterchef. This is the age of celebrity, and everyone’s invited, even judges. Indeed, in her book, Hale make the case for diversity on the bench by arguing that judges must look like the society they serve. Perhaps they ought to be selling themselves, on Instagram or TikTok, to ensure that young people engage with the law and relate to those who uphold it.

Then again judges are arguably the closest thing we now have to Plato’s Guardians, a group that comes from society but still sits apart from it, in order to make decisions in our best interest. We don’t really need to know what they think or — worse — how they feel while they dispense justice. And the more we know about them, the more likely we are to disagree with them. Familiarity breeds distrust. The story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg should be a cautionary tale to British judges, not an inspiration. For every American who adores “Notorious R.B.G.” there is one who distrusts liberals in the judiciary. It is better for public trust in our institutions if impartial public servants keep quiet than if they make themselves more “relatable” figures, a lesson that a certain former House of Commons Speaker has sadly ignored.

I’m wary of imputing thoughts to Brenda Hale, but I wonder if she, too, is in two minds about the wisdom of a senior judge courting celebrity. Perhaps that explains why her book is stuck somewhere in the quagmire between fully revealing autobiography and impersonal legal history.


James Kirkup is Director of the London-based Social Market Foundation

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Graeme Archer
Graeme Archer
2 years ago

”We” are not – as in the answer to the headline’s question “Why are we so keen to make Hale a celebrity?” I’d gladly pay never to have to look at her face or her stupid spider brooch again. She represents the power of the elite that lost in 2016 and lost in 2019 and will never, ever reconcile itself to that loss, which is the only reason their supporters keep them in the public eye.

Michael Kellett
Michael Kellett
2 years ago
Reply to  Graeme Archer

Well said!

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
2 years ago

Since I saw a BBC TV programme in 2010 on the then-fairly-new Supreme Court, and I noticed then that Ms Hale (who was featured in the programme as one of the judges on the SC), seemed fairly pleased with herself, I started to form the view that this lady loves being a celeb, and loves attention of any sort – the more the better. Most judges are the opposite, shunning attention, so Ms Hale has stood out in a grey profession. The important question is: she was an important public servant, and did the attention-seeking affect her judgement ? In 2019, in the case of the Supreme Court vs Brexit and Boris Johnson, I was struck by the uniformity of the Remainer SC view, which was then at the same time the Establishment view. I thought then that Ms Hale wanted to burnish her Establishment credentials. I regarded her retirement as a better thing for the Supreme Court, which, in my view, should not be headed by an attention-seeker.

Last edited 2 years ago by Giles Chance
Bill W
Bill W
2 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

As a former lawyer, I was gobsmacked by the unanimity of the judgement.

Edward H
Edward H
2 years ago
Reply to  Bill W

I agree. Even Miller 1 wasn’t unanimous. Miller 2 was politically very helpful to BoJo though, there’s no denying that.

Katy Hibbert
Katy Hibbert
2 years ago
Reply to  Bill W

Yes. It reminded me of those “elections” in Russia or some banana republic, where the dictator gets 100%.

Jean Nutley
Jean Nutley
2 years ago
Reply to  Bill W

Would you go so far as to say that there was a climate of fear as a background to the judgement? If so, many naysayers would not have dared to speak out.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
2 years ago
Reply to  Bill W

I also found it amazing that such a large bench could be unanimous. I mentioned this in conversation to a former academic lawyer (who, incidentally, had personal inside knowledge on the authorship of the judgement).

His comment on the judgment’s being unanimous? ‘Well, it had to be, didn’t it?’

I found that both revealing and disturbing.

Nigel Gosden
Nigel Gosden
2 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

“I noticed then that Ms Hale (who was featured in the programme as one of the judges on the SC), seemed fairly pleased with herself, I started to form the view that this lady loves being a celeb, and loves attention of any sort”.
I’ve met Brenda Hale twice; once when I was a law student in Manchester in the 1970s and then again circa 2015 when she made the effort to come to Exeter to attend a walk to commemorate the the life and premature death of a local lady district judge. She always seemed to be happy and smiley and pleased to meet and talk to anyone. She was also completely modest about her achievements and only wanted to talk to people about themselves. I personally think you have misjudged her and apparently, in the beginning at least, from her smile.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Gosden

Ah, welcome into the spider`s web……

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
2 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Gosden

I have not met Lady Hale and bow to your superior knowledge.

Last edited 2 years ago by Giles Chance
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

judges must look like the society they serve

Well, not like the 52% of that society who are thick, racist Brexiteers, obviously. Judges must be Remainers.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I’m a Brexiter and, yes, I am very thick.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
2 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

…and racist, obviously.

Aidan Trimble
Aidan Trimble
2 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

Don’t forget anti-Semitic Giles.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

I abstained, but clearly Remain lost because they failed to make this point. Had they pointed out, even once, that Brexit supporter were racist, thick gammons, I feel sure the scales would have fallen from the voters’ eyes and Remain would have shaded a win.
Perhaps Remain was simply too magnanimous for its own good; too respectful of difference of opinion, too empathetic, too inclusive.

William Cameron
William Cameron
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Brussels MEPs and Commissioners are largely people who couldnt cut it in their own countries political milieu.
So In the Eu you have an overweening body run by civil servants who can easily control the none to bright MEPS .\
So why the Uk would choose to be run be second raters largely unelected has never been explained by Remainers.

Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Made me laugh, that.

Charles Lawton
Charles Lawton
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Jon 52% of those that voted.Seriously this was aJudgement on the issue of whether Parliament or the Government of the day is supreme goes way beyond that. Attlee to his discredit used a similar ploy in the late 1940s to push through some of his Governments nationalisation policies. I am surprised at you, normally your comments are well considered and erudite.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Lawton

Charles, the government was acting on a specific instruction from the electorate that Parliament had no intention whatsoever of honouring. We know that because when presented with a series of indicative votes, the Broken Parliament opposed the whole lot of them; it would not vote for any Brexit.
It is not a simple question of which of Parliament or the government has primacy, as though both are somehow equal, and the position each wanted to enact was of equal democratic merit. Brexit won by counting area, constituency, and votes cast, so the government was trying to implement the result. Parliament was trying to subvert that result, and the Supreme Court shamefully abetted that.
The government should have the power to dismiss both.

Charles Lawton
Charles Lawton
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

If it was a binding referendum I would agree but it was not.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Lawton

It may not have been legally binding (for reasons which have not yet been explained), but it was most certainly morally binding. The vast majority of the country would certainly have thought it binding, and Cameron emphasised that.
Sad that you are still arguing.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Lawton

On that basis neither was our previous membership.

Jean Nutley
Jean Nutley
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

No, judges should be impartial.

Jeff Carr
Jeff Carr
2 years ago
Reply to  Jean Nutley

Are they though? Unfortunately the legal profession appear to be increasingly politicised. More lawyers are coming out with their own opinions and this is threatening the perceived impartiality of the Judiciary.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
2 years ago

a girl from a little village outside Richmond in Yorkshire (not, she says early in the book, “the sort of place where you would expect a top judge to grow up”)

Ah Richmond, that bastion of working men and women that was run by the liberals as recently as 1906, and the Conservatives ever since.
Which is fine. But tellingly she’s shoehorning a sense of “northerness” (therefore somehow not establishment or moneyed) onto herself to try and claim some sort of underdog status. It’s sad that people have to be in denial about their true heritage in this country in order to appear more “real”. Just accept where you came from and try and be good at what you do. Don’t cloak yourself in a fake veil of “authenticity”.

we are all vain creatures, and there’s no shame in that.

To some degree perhaps and in a whimsical sense. But she seems to be trying so very hard not to appear so whilst simultaneously being very vain as you correctly call her out for. You’re being kind I think.

Last edited 2 years ago by A Spetzari
Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

I also find tiresome the frequency with which people in the limelight will trumpet, or claim, working-class, non-southern or ethnic minority backgrounds in order to appear more ‘authentic’ (whatever that means). Does this happen in other countries in Europe? Or just in our class- and race-obsessed society? As you say, just ‘try to be good at what you do’.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

I live in a little village. I don’t know whether or not one might expect a top judge to grow up here, but it’s now far too expensive for anyone with an average income to buy a house, and the farm workers all disappeared long ago. Those of modest income must now find a house in unfashionable areas of the nearest city.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

And:

“Hale’s rise demonstrates the old adage that a woman has to be twice as good as a man to achieve the same.”

Well that old cliche has long been out the window. And I assume you mean one of the ‘White Patriarchy’ by ‘Man’, and any ‘Minority’ by ‘Woman’ – well that is long out the window too…. – (except where high Corporate finance and management means results matter). I mean, look at Biden and Boris appointees…… Not one of them is half as good as is needed, and so the new version of the adage should be: (best not say it)

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Go on…I’ll say it “a man has to be twice as good as a woman (or a transvestite) to achieve the same”.

Katy Hibbert
Katy Hibbert
2 years ago

“We don’t really need to know what they think or — worse — how they feel while they dispense justice.”
The dogs in the street know how Lady Spider and the rest of her Blairite kangaroo “court” thought and felt about Brexit. The antidemocratic bunch hated it so much they invented a new law to retro-fit to Boris’s perfectly reasonable prorogation of the zombie “Parliament”. Hale’s other opinions can be assumed to be those of a wealthy champagne socialist with a Tuscan villa or two.

Edward H
Edward H
2 years ago

Hale make (sic) the case for diversity on the bench by arguing that judges must look like the society they serve

This argument sounds interesting and worth expanding, possibly elsewhere.
Why “must” it? Does it follow then that if a judiciary does not “look like” the society it serves then it will make incorrect decisions? How does one’s “look” affect one’s ability to interpret legislation and legal precedent to apply it to the facts of an instant case?

Hector Mildew
Hector Mildew
2 years ago
Reply to  Edward H

Very good questions. We all know that Lady Hale is a “liberal”. Why on earth should we know whether judges are “liberals”, or anything else about their personal opinions, if they are acting utterly professionally and as you succinctly summarise, focusing entirely on interpretation of the law and legal precedent in their judgments?
If memory serves (and I’m sure somebody will correct me if I’m wrong), Lady Hale was challenged at the time of the prorogation judgment to explain the legal basis for it and gave a less than convincing reply, leaving us to suspect that her personal views were rather more than peripheral to the judgment itself.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Hector Mildew

She did explain it, and you can read it here; R (on the application of Miller) (Appellant) v The Prime Minister (Respondent) and Cherry and others (Respondents) v Advocate General for Scotland (Appellant) (Scotland) (supremecourt.uk)
I fully expected the appeal to fail, as did many others, because English law has kept firmly out of politics since 1688, so on reading it, I got the strong impression that the reasoning followed the decision. I’m not surprised, as she had already unwisely made her opinion of Brexit known. What did surprise me is that the decision was unanimous. I don’t know, but suspect that they all knew it was controversial, and decided on solidarity.
So the Supreme court follows the way of many of the multiple institutions to which are owed our steady progress in rights and freedom over hundreds of years, by subordinating decisions to the current political orthodoxy.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Edward H

“judges must look like the society they serve”

And what is this ‘Look’ cra*? ‘Think like’ maybe – but that would mean a majority of conservative Judges being appointed, and I am sure she would not think that a good thing.

Rob Britton
Rob Britton
2 years ago

Lady Hale was just one more of those awful activist lawyers who cares more about politics than justice. She was just part of the remainer establishment trying to thwart Brexit when she declared prorogation ‘unlawful’. It is completely fitting that she is treated as a celebrity, rather than a judge, remembered more for her silly broach than anything.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Rob Britton

‘Making Law From The Bench’ is what Liberal Judges do….. A great flaw in the system of Common Law, whereby a crazed Judge can create Law which Parliament could never get passed.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

She retired not long afterwards….
As a Yank and a lawyer, let me offer this perspective: the UK is lucky that there seems to be no life tenure for judges and for politicians. The American system is suffering from complete sclerosis, and I offer 3 examples from across the political spectrum:
RBG, who chose to die on the court, even though she was no longer able to do her job.
John McCain, who chose to die while “serving” in the Senate, even though he could no longer do the job–he physically couldn’t even show up. This did not prevent him from attempting to negotiate who would take his seat should he resign. His pick: his wife.
Sickeningly, the American press always refers to “McCain’s Senate seat, Pelosi’s House seat, but this is wrong. It is not their property. The “seats” belong to the people, not the temporary occupant, though this is forgotten.
Joe Biden: Joe Biden simply wanted to be President, even though he suffers from mental/physical infirmities that render him unfit for this (or any) job.
In each of these examples, these “American heroes” put self over country. They are not heroes. They are disgraceful.
At least your Spider Woman had the good sense to retire.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

But American Judges below Federal level are voted in by local elections. This is a great thing. The people can oust them, and get better – at the ballot box. (The flaw in this is Soros and his America Hating Ilk spend millions and millions in campaign funds and organizations getting in hard left Judges and DAs and Prosecutors so the law can be broken.)

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

This, too, is far off the mark. In many, perhaps most cases, judges run unopposed. They will win no matter what, because the ruling class, consisting mainly of two parties, make backroom deals so as not to compete, not to run (or as you might say, stand, for election.
The second thing is that there is no way to determine the positions of a judge, as it is usually deemed unethical for a judge to campaign on the issues. A judge is deemed “above” politics. They are prohibited in almost every case from explaining anything about how they would do the job; one is reduced to reading tea leaves.
You are correct in the broadest sense in theory, far off the mark in practice. If you were to ask 100 Americans who is “their” judge and/or who they voted in as judge 98 would have no clue, and 2 would be connected to the legal system or party affiliates and care deeply.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
2 years ago

My problem with Lady Hale, and the Supreme Court generally, is the lack of experience apparently required for the position. Hale has never been a practising lawyer, let alone a judge. She is/was solely an academic, a theorist.

At least in the US, everybody on the Supreme Court has vast experience in the courts. They have an understanding and experience of the real-world outcomes of legislation.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

But not Ginsburg

roger bird
roger bird
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Not so. There are many examples of US SC judges who have been academics. The UK has for years been urged to follow this example.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  roger bird

Only by academics

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

As a Yank and a lawyer, I agree with the first part but not the second. “Vast experience?” Hardly. Many people in the Federal Courts in America have almost no real world experience–which is how they like it apparently.
Your statement is just far, far off the mark.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Then I stand corrected.

Charles Lawton
Charles Lawton
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Not so sure appointment to the US Supreme Court is almost entirely on Political Affiliations not necessarily being able judges. Totally different system to the UK. The Judgments of the SC when Hale was the President are clear and well thought through, if you care to read them. Furthermore they have a clarity of language that make them accessible.

Julia H
Julia H
2 years ago

After listening to the convoluted ‘reasoning’ that she read out to explain why her Supreme Court was more important and clever than the people who voted for Brexit I thought she was a totally pompous, out of touch waste of space. After reading what she had to say about why the public are so appalled by the Sarah Everard murder I am confirmed in that opinion.

Brian Hunt
Brian Hunt
2 years ago

She disgusts me. An arrogant darling of the remainers who tried to a sabotage a democratic decision and bought the independence of the judiciary into question

William Cameron
William Cameron
2 years ago

On desert island discs she was instantly recognisable . A silly woman who overrated her intellect and happily opposes democratic results. An appalling person .

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

What a load of tosh. Hale rose as high as she did because, and only because, she is a woman

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago

If you are a upper class woman, you can rise to the top even if you are one tenth as good as a working class man.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
2 years ago

She was too ready to engage in judicial activism and her enjoyment at putting Boris back in his box was only too evident.

William Cameron
William Cameron
2 years ago

Listen to her on Desert Island discs . Basking in the limelight. A Lady with a much higher opinion of herself than is deserved.

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago

In another website there are liberals (USA left version) falling out of love with Eric Clapton because he is financing an anti-VAX musical group.
My question was did he wish to become a liberal icon or was it thrust upon him? Was the disappointment because of peoples’ failed expectations which they projected onto him? Same with the Spider Lady. The article suggests that her diffidence is real even though she appreciates the ‘fame’.
Part of Epicurus’s philosophy was to avoid ‘fame’. Seeking fame (the respect of other people) places your happiness and equanimity in the hands of other people – who may reverse their adulation at a stroke. Even if you are a great musician or a Supreme Court Judge.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Fame is a pre-Christian value. It was important, for example, to the Vikings who felt they had to attract the attention of the gods through ‘great deeds’ (invading other lands and massacring their inhabitants) to get to Valhalla. It was an amoral aspiration, soaked in blood.
Christianity introduced the virtue of humility – honored more in the breach, I accept – but even kings played more than lip service to it when they crawled on their knees in sackcloth after egregious offences. Epicurus was also right – seeking fame harms yourself as well as others.

Last edited 2 years ago by Judy Englander
Christian Moon
Christian Moon
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

If you deny the Vikings their particular morality, by calling it amoral, are you not insisting on universalising your own, just as much as they were by chopping people’s heads off”?

Jean Nutley
Jean Nutley
2 years ago

I find the cult of “celebrity” absolutely abhorrent. The whole shebang are mainly acquired through their achievements as TV stars in one way or another. Very few, IMHO, deserve the accolade of celebrity. Many are vacuous bimbos, famous for being famous.
If fame is to be achieved and if fame is something worthwhile then at least let it be through doing something rather good?

Charles Lawton
Charles Lawton
2 years ago

Judges in the UK who become celebrities generally end up the poorer for it. Lord Denning’s career ended sadly, because vanity got the better of him.
Our Judges are better to stick to their job and make their judgments according to the laws of the UK and precedent.
Hale handed down the judgment of the Supreme Court(SC), not her own judgment, but that of all the members of the Court. It grieves me to read the comments below which make distinction between remain and leave, political viewpoints, when actually the judgment was about the supremacy of Parliament over the Government of the day. The SC could only ever have reached the decision it did, the British Constitution, although unwritten makes it clear that Parliament is supreme.
I really think Lady Hale should not have written about the decision she and her fellow judges in the SC made on the prorogation case. It still is a political hot potato and what she has done shows poor judgement from someone we expect better of.
Yes by all means write about her career as a women who succeeded in a profession that was a bastion of men, but don’t try to shine a bright light on how the SC members reached a decision on a major constitutional issue.
As for the broach, why should mere trinkets and decoration get so much juvenile attention? All that matters is the judgment and the arguments considered to arrive at it. Lady Hale needs to be careful and not become another judicial casualty in retirement as poor old Tom Denning did.

Last edited 2 years ago by Charles Lawton
John Hicks
John Hicks
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Lawton

You make an interesting distinction about careers, retirement and judicial decisions. I did not know of Lord Denning’s “sadness” in retirement. I’m sorry to hear that, as I imagine are all those students of the Common Law who have marvelled at the clarity of his legal reasoning, wisdom and common sense in judgements that continue to resonate through Law Schools of the English Speaking World. One would wish Lady Hale a happy retirement. Her legacy is something else. It will be found by future law students as surviving precedents of her work on the Bench. May take a while.

Charles Lawton
Charles Lawton
2 years ago
Reply to  John Hicks

John, I agree I have not read Lady Hale’s book yet, but I think she could well have made a serious error of judgment to include a commentary on the prorogation case in it.
I am a great fan of Lord Denning, his judgments were without doubt were as you say clear, wise and common sensical making a significant contribution to Common Law. Sadly in the end he became embroiled in Political decisions at the end of his career which diminished him at the end of a brilliant judicial career.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago

Last edited 2 years ago by hugh bennett
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

“We don’t really need to know what they think or — worse — how they feel while they dispense justice”.

Arguably we need to know more. There is robust evidence from studies that judges hand out different sentences depending on whether they are hungry or sated!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Rumpole of The Old Bailey is my guide in how to think of Judges. And he does not put them on a pedestal, like this writer does this one.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
2 years ago

I used to be quite proud of the fact that our Supreme Court judges were so aloof from politics, in contrast to the Americans, that I couldn’t name a single one of them. Hopefully we can go back to that pattern.

William Cameron
William Cameron
2 years ago

I have tried to upvote some comments – I am signed in- but it won’t let me ?

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
2 years ago

Poor clicking. Hone your technique. (I had the same problem.)

D Ward
D Ward
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

sometimes it takes quite a while to get it to uptick


Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

Establish your soundness by good posts, then the moderators will enable your ability to ‘click up or down’.

Just joking – the moderators here do not care, it is if someone has voted down wile you read, then you vote up, they cancel out. If the Thumb sign lights red but the number stays the same your vote was tallied.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
2 years ago

After praising Lady Hale, as incredibly bright, you also praise the Supreme Court’s ruling on prorogation. I can’t comment on the first observation, but it definitely does not follow from my reading of the Court’s case. It was sloppily written, held a number of inaccuracies, (para 32 got the date wrong for Sir Edward Coke’s 1610 Case of Proclamations)was logically inconsistent, and serves as an example of judges operating as politicians. In a serious country, Lady Hale would have been impeached forthwith.
The timeline is important. The vote of June 23 2016 gave a small margin to Leave, 52 to 48%. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to Remain, England and Wales voted to leave. After four years, the draft treaty, signed by the EU 27, and by Prime Minister May, was rejected three times by the House of Commons, whose members were said to be 80% for Remain. The failure to exit on March 29, 2019, resulted in a political tsunami, given that May had promised 106 times that the UK would leave on the fixed day. She had also said that “no deal was better than a bad deal”. Had she followed her own slogan, the UK would have exited on March 29. But she applied for an extension. This gave rise to the widespread suspicion that she had lied all along. 
On  July 24, 2019, Johnson in front of 10 Downing Street declared that his objective was to reach a deal, not to exit with a no deal. Ex post, we know that is what he did. Militant Remainers refused to believe him. On August 28, John advised the Queen to prorogue parliament from the second week of September 2019 until October 14, 2019, days before a scheduled summit of the European Council on October 17. Johnson, the accusation held, was using the power to progogue to circumvent parliamentary scrutiny, and push through a no deaL There was no evidence, but there was a suspicion,

Johnson came under attack also in the both the courts, and in parliament. But in the Scottish Court of Sessions and the England and Wales High Court of Justice ruled that the matter was not political. These cases went to the Supreme Court, motored there by activist lawyers, which ruled unanimously that prorogation was both justiciable and unlawful. It was justiciable, the judges legislated, because Article 9 of the 1689 Bill of Rights-the most important document in Britain’s constitution- did not hold. It was unlawful because the intent of the UK Prime Minister was to exclude parliament from having its say. What was the proof advanced? The answer came that the motive was obvious.

In other words, there was no proof. There was allegation, yes. There were political partis pris, yes. But it is not the task of the judiciary to enter the political fray, let alone to repeal a crucial clause- clause 9- in an act of parliament, central to the constitution of our country.

It also overlooked a key point: on 9 September, On September 3, Tory MP and no deal opponent, Oliver Letwin, made an emergency motion to introduce a bill which sought to delay Brexit past October 31. The motion would allow backbench control of the timetable in order to pass the European Union (Withdrawal)(No.2) Act 2019. The Act-known as the Benn Act- passed, with Johnson losing his majority on his second day in parliament as PM. This bill received Royal Assent on September 9. The Act rejected a “no deal” scenario and sought to prolong the negotiation process beyond October 31.

Whether or not parliament was, or was not sitting, was not relevant. What was relevant was the Act’s provision if the House of Commons did not give its consent to a new withdrawal agreement or leaving without a deal by October 19. The Act set out the steps the PM would need to take to seek extension under Article 50 , and also created obligations for the government to lay reports on the status of negotiations with the EU, which could be voted on by the House of Commons. Whether or not the PM was believed to be lying, he was bound hand and foot by parliament.

In other words, not only was the judgement of the Supreme Court ultra vires. It was also  superfluous. Lady Hale has dug her reputation’s own grave, trashed the credibility of Blair’s Supreme Court, torn up the Bill of Rights, and claimed judicial powers to legislate. Why she has not been declared persona non grata in the British Establishment says a lot about modern day Britain.

Franj Lyons
Franj Lyons
2 years ago

Why is so much of the piece written in present tense?