Law Society president Joe Egan delivered this speech earlier today at the swearing-in ceremony for the lord chief justice at the Royal Courts of Justice
Lord chief justice, My lords, ladies and gentlemen
As president of the Law Society of England and Wales, on behalf of the solicitors’ profession I welcome you to the post of lord chief justice.
We, as a profession, look forward to working with you.
Through your work in the High Court and prior to that in the county and crown courts, your Lordship has confronted some of the country’s most difficult constitutional questions ranging from assisted dying to terrorism.
In a recent case relating to the Suicide Act, your Lordship, paraphrasing Lord Neuberger, emphasised the principle of parliamentary sovereignty stating, and I quote, ‘judges should not express their own personal views on the moral questions which arise in deciding what is the best way forward as a matter of policy’.
That is a sentiment that I am sure everyone in this courtroom agrees. It rightly emphasises respect for the will of parliament, the separation of powers and the supremacy of the rule of law.
These principles are perhaps now more important than ever. Respect for the rule of law is demonstrated through the promotion of access to justice.
The question of access to justice was considered by your Lordship in one particular context three years ago. Proposals to limit the number of criminal legal aid contracts were challenged by the profession and your Lordship said that a high degree of fairness was required in considering and I quote '... the impact upon those who secure the contracts and upon access to justice.'
And lead ultimately, one might opine, to the survival of a number of firms with the consequent impact upon clients being able to access justice.
We are grateful for your Lordship’s care and concern for access to justice.
In the same way we warmly welcome the Supreme Court's judgment ruling employment tribunal fees unlawful and emphasising the constitutional right of access to justice.
We also recognise the need for modernisation of the court system and welcome the investment. We are working closely with members of the judiciary and the courts service in support of their modernisation programme.
We are delighted to be working too with the judiciary and the bar through the Brexit Law Committee set up by your lordship’s predecessor.
There are challenging times ahead. We have no doubt that your Lordship will tackle them head on and we look forward, as officers of the court, to assisting in any way we can.
Lord chief justice we welcome you to your new role and wish you longevity and every success.