At the opening of the Singapore legal year 2015 on 5 January 2015, the Honourable the Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon ("CJ Menon") launched the official opening of the Singapore International Commercial Court ("SICC").
The concept of the SICC has been in the making since late 2013, and was envisioned as an arm of the Supreme Court of Singapore that would be specifically set up to deal with international commercial disputes. The SICC would operate as a division of the High Court, thus allowing appeals to the Court of Appeal and for SICC judgments to be enforceable as judgments of the High Court of Singapore. Special rules were also put into place to allow foreign counsel to appear before the SICC under limited circumstances such as where the dispute has no substantial connection to Singapore. Cases under the SICC would be heard by existing Supreme Court Judges, as well as by two other categories of Judges, namely Senior Judges (comprising of retired Supreme Court Judges who are reappointed to hear cases) and International Judges (consisting of renowned international jurists who are specifically appointed to hear cases in the SICC).
In his speech, CJ Menon recounted that the genesis of the SICC was driven by primarily two pressing ideas:-
- the recognition that the increase in commercial activity (and therefore commercial disputes) in Asia which gave rise to the corresponding need for institutions capable of swift, efficient, and predictable dispute resolution; and
- the desire to promote Singapore as a centre for resolution of commercial disputes developing an entire suite of options (following the success of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre as well as following the recent launch of the Singapore International Mediation Centre).
Lastly, CJ Menon unveiled the first batch of eleven International Judges for the SICC, all of whom are eminent jurists of the highest calibre from both civil and common law jurisdictions. The International Judges appointed are:-
- The Honourable Mr Dyson Heydon AC QC, former Judge of the High Court of Australia;
- The Honourable Justice Patricia Bergin, Chief Judge in Equity of the Supreme Court of New South Wales;
- The Honourable Mr Roger Giles, former Judge of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and currently Judge of the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts;
- The Honourable Dr Irmgard Griss, former President of the Austrian Supreme Court;
- The Honourable Dominique Hascher, Judge of the Supreme Judicial Court of France;
- Mr Anselmo Reyes, former Judge of the Court of First Instance in Hong Kong and Judge in charge of the Construction and Arbitration List as well as the Commercial and Admiralty List;
- Professor Yasuhei Taniguchi, Professor Emeritus at Kyoto University and formerly Chairman and Member of the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization;
- The Right Honourable Sir Bernard Rix, former Judge in charge of the Commercial Court and subsequently Lord Justice of Appeal in the Court of Appeal of England and Wales until his retirement in 2013;
- The Honourable Sir Vivian Ramsey, former Judge of the High Court of England and Wales and Judge in charge of the Technology and Construction Court;
- Mr Simon Thorley QC, a specialist in intellectual property law and former Deputy High Court Judge of England and Wales and Deputy Chairman of the Copyright Tribunal of the UK; and
- The Honourable Ms Carolyn Berger, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Delaware and formerly the Vice-Chancellor of the Court of Chancery of that jurisdiction.
In addition, retired Chief Justice of Singapore Chan Sek Keong was appointed as a Senior Judge who would sit as an occasional member of the Court of Appeal as well as in the SICC.
The opening of the SICC will no doubt influence the growth of the legal services sector in Singapore and it is hoped that this will cement Singapore's position as the prime destination for dispute resolution in Asia.