The Supreme Moment

Outside the UK Supreme Court in Westminster, one of the carved stone benches has already been disfigured by skateboarders. Inside, though, everything is looking splendid, with last-minute rehearsals for tomorrow’s opening ceremony in which the justices will swear each other in.

There’s now an excellent new blog devoted to the new court. One of its authors is Hugh Tomlinson QC, who is quoted in today’s City AM as saying that his chambers, Matrix, “claims the distinction of being in the last case in the old House of Lords and in the first three cases in the new Supreme Court”.

But Dinah Rose QC, of the rival set Blackstone Chambers, was not only the last advocate to address the House of Lords. She is also expected to be the first advocate to address the Supreme Court tomorrow.

The court had been planning to hear its first case next Monday. But Lord Hope, Lady Hale and Lord Brown have now arranged to sit tomorrow afternoon to decide an urgent question involving costs.

After the law lords delivered what they intended to be their last judgment in the House of Lords on July 30 – the Debbie Purdy assisted suicide ruling – they had to come back unexpectedly on July 31 to deal with R(E) v JFS, the case about the admission policies of a leading Jewish school in London.

The hearing was arranged at such short notice that there was no bishop available to say prayers in the chamber – not a requirement for sittings of the Supreme Court.

The law lords had already agreed to hear an appeal by JFS – some of them regard it as the most interesting appeal the Supreme Court will hear this term.

Earlier this month, however, the Legal Services Commission told M’s father that it would not continue to fund him on legal aid unless the school and the other appellants agreed that they would not seek costs against the commission if successful.

So tomorrow afternoon Ms Rose will seek a “protective costs order” – a ruling that even if the school and the United Synagogue win their appeal to the Supreme Court, they will not be entitled to recover their costs from the boy’s father, known as E.

Lord Pannick QC, for the JFS, will – needless to say – oppose the application.

I would expect the law lords – as I think we may continue to call them – to give judgment at the end of the hearing tomorrow, perhaps after a short adjournment.

Sky News are hoping to broadcast some of the argument live. It will be the first time a hearing at a court in England has been shown on television.

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