Britain Celebrates Implementation of its Supreme Court
I learned a couple of weeks ago that Britain would soon be implementing a Supreme Court instead of the House of Lords. Here is a new AP article on the formal ceremony.
An interesting additional point to the article is that some members of our Supreme Court went over for the ceremony (and Justice Ginsberg tried to go over). One wonders if this means they are now more willing to listen to and consider the rulings made by the courts of other nations.
Queen Elizabeth II Opens New U.K. Supreme Court
The Associated Press
October 16, 2009
Queen Elizabeth II formally opened Britain’s new Supreme Court on Friday in a ceremony attended by high court justices from the United States and around the world.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown and top judges from Canada, Australia, India, South Africa and Europe attended the ceremony for a court the government says will make the workings of justice visible and accessible to the British public.
U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia watched the ceremony, which included prayers led by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and a verse for the new court by former poet laureate Andrew Motion.
U.S. justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also had been scheduled to attend, but she became ill just before her plane took off from Washington late Wednesday and was briefly hospitalized. U.S. court officials said Ginsburg, 76, became drowsy because of a reaction to medicine.
For hundreds of years, Britain’s highest court of appeal was the Law Lords, a group of justices who sat in Parliament’s upper chamber, the House of Lords.
Earlier this month the judges shed their wigs and ermine-trimmed robes and moved to a new home in a renovated 100-year-old courthouse across Parliament Square from the Houses of Parliament. The court began hearing cases Oct. 5.
The government says the new court corrects one of the quirks of Britain’s ancient and unwritten constitution, separating the country’s judicial and legislative powers after hundreds of years of muddled compromise.
Brown said that, with the formation of the court, “a separation of powers once only guaranteed by convention is now cemented by statute.”
The new court also is equipped with cameras and microphones so proceedings can be broadcast. Recording is prohibited in most British courts.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw said Friday that the Supreme Court underlined the independence of the judicial system. He said the work of the Law Lords had been “opaque and was obscured from public view.” “In this place we now have this court — public, accessible, visible — situated in this square at the heart of our nation’s history over a millennium,” Straw said.