A Liber Amicorum

Mads Andenas and Duncan Fairgrieve (eds.) 964 pages, 978-0-19-956618-1, Oxford University Press [2009]

Lord Bingham of Cornhill is the third Senior Law Lord to receive a Liber Amicorum. Lord Wilberforce got one in the 1980s and Lord Goff got his in the 1990s. This one is hugely impressive in terms of the range of topics, the contributors, and its sheer size. Perhaps this is unsurprising. Lord Bingham is among the most influential judges of the twentieth century. He occupied a succession of the most senior judicial offices - Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice and Senior Law Lord. His judicial and academic work has deeply influenced the development of the law in a period of substantial legal change. In particular his role in establishing the new UK Supreme Court and his views on the rule of law and judicial independence have left a profound mark on UK constitutional law.

This volume collects around 50 essays from colleagues and those influenced by Lord Bingham from across academia and legal practice. They include senior judges from the Commonwealth, the US and Europe, and leading academics from across the world. The essays are devoted to Lord Bingham’s own contributions to the development and transformation of various branches of the law – constitutional and human rights law, naturally. And there is analysis of his work in the fields of judicial review, European law, commercial law, the law of torts, and his judicious use of comparative law.

His now celebrated Cambridge lecture on the Rule of Law gave real content to what had become a mere formula, and has transformed it into a practical judicial tool. Lord Bingham’s concept of the Rule of Law is quoted and discussed in at least five essays in the book in different contexts by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Clarke, Professor van Gerven of the University of Leuven, Professor McCorquodale of the BIICL, Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter of Princeton, and Professor Guido Alpa of Rome.

You will also find some discussion of Lord Bingham’s special qualities as Senior Law Lord. Baroness Hale says in her essay (“A Supreme Judicial Leader”) that Lord Bingham did not encourage a single majority judgment, nor did he discourage dissent. Yet it is not often that he was in the minority in a split panel. She adds that “even when he is in the minority one often has a sneaking sense that history will prove him right”.

The book was launched at a reception in Gray’s Inn on 25 June 2009 attended by the Law Lords, most of the Court of Appeal and High Court judges, and prominent representatives of the Bar and The Law Society. Sir Sydney Kentridge QC gave the main address and added to Baroness Hale’s words about history proving Lord Bingham right: ‘I would go further and say, as Cicero said of Plato, substituting Bingham for Plato, “By Hercules I would rather be wrong with Bingham than right with the others”’.