On Saturday in Edinburgh, President of the Supreme Court Lord Neuberger delivered the keynote closing address at the World Bar Conference. The transcript of Neuberger's speech has now been released and reveals that he got so bored watching hearings in the European Court of Justice that he took the judges to task over lunch and left them really sad if not traumatised.
Neuberger disclosed that on his first visit to the ECJ in Luxembourg he attended a morning’s hearings and observed with increasing distaste that, "each party had 20 minutes to put its case, and was listened to in silence, after which the judges put, I think, one question." Which "was not really answered by the advocate to whom it was addressed."
Afterwards the ECJ judges made the fateful decision to invite their British visitor to lunch where they asked him how he had enjoyed their morning's work. Neuberger says he made it clear to them that the hearings had been "unexciting to the point of being soporifically leaden."
The Baron of Abbotsbury continued, asking the judges whether they "didn’t find it frustrating, indeed boring, to listen to advocates, without being able to ask them questions as they went along, without being able to engage in dialogue, and without being able to get them to concentrate on the points which concerned the court." The ECJ judges reacted with "a mixture of amusement and shock."
The amused grandees went on the attack, telling Neuberger that British judges "talked too much," and implied that Newrosbeef and his British colleagues "should learn the virtue of silence." The shocked judges "considered it to be judicial solecism for a judge to interrupt an advocate," and said that British judges "should not be even contemplating it." A Portuguese judge told Neuberger that in his country, "it was judicial misconduct for a judge to interrupt an advocate."
|"Hey Judge Stupid! I'm talking here!" - Portugal
After what was hopefully an awkward silence, "the conversation then moved on." But Neuberger had set an ugly thought running through their minds which no amount of comparing favourite cuts on Zayn's new album could silence. "A bit later," reports Neuberger, the conversation "turned back to the hearings" when one of the judges commented on Neuberger's surprise that ECJ advocates simply read out their submissions. Neuberger explained that, "not merely was there no spontaneity, it seemed to me there was not even an attempt to engage with the court." The judges "rather mournfully agreed," says Neuberger, and admitted that "they regretted it."
Pwned and completely broken, another confessed that advocates from the UK "were consistently and easily the best oral makers of submissions" in the Luxembourg court. "A proposition," says Neuberger, "to which the other judges all agreed."
With that, Neuberger polished off his pud, rose and swept off to the Eurostar, leaving a table of shaken ECJ judges questioning their worth and that of their justice systems. Several started to weep, but another said, no, don't you see, for the first time we are not blind, and then all of them slowly started to smile, as they realised that although they were scared and sad and lost they were, for the first time, truly awake.
Neuberger also speaks eloquently in his speech on the challenges which legal aid cuts present to the rule of law, how the press stiched him up when he said he preferred not to read casefiles and the threat of robots.