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Professor Robert Walsh represents American Inns of Court at founding of United Kingdom’s Supreme Court

Professor and Dean Emeritus Robert K. Walsh, the national president of the American Inns of Court, recently returned from an 11-day trip to London where he represented the organization at ceremonies surrounding the initiation of the British Legal Year and the establishment of the first Supreme Court in the history of the United Kingdom.  In addition to representing the American Inns of Court at the ceremony, Professor Walsh took four 2009 American Inns of Court Temple Bar Scholars to London to introduce them to the leaders of the English Bench and Bar.

The events began with a ceremony full of pageantry at Westminster Abbey on Oct.1 focusing particularly on the establishment of the new Supreme Court.  Immediately before the Abbey ceremony, the new Justices took their oaths of office on live television broadcast both throughout the U.K. and the world in the largest courtroom of the new Supreme Court Building across Parliament Square from their old residence in the House of Lords section of Parliament.

For centuries, the highest court of the United Kingdom was the House of Lords.  For the past century, a committee of Law Lords has functioned as the country’s highest court and all judges have been appointed by a member of the prime minister’s cabinet. On Oct. 1, the former Law Lords became Justices of the new Supreme Court and moved out of the House of Lords section of Parliament to a new separate Supreme Court building.  The head of the new Supreme Court is the President, Lord Nicholas Phillips.  The impetus for the establishment of the first Supreme Court in British history was to have a greater separation of powers for judicial independence.  Prior to the establishment of the Court, not only was the highest appellate tribunal in the legislative branch, the House of Lords, but judges were appointed by the Lord Chancellor, a member of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet.  With the establishment of the Supreme Court, judges will now be appointed by judicial selection commissions independent of both the executive and legislative branches.

The activities to introduce the Temple Bar Scholars to the Bench and Bar of the United Kingdom began with a reception at the Old Hall of Lincoln’s Inn to which seven of the current 11 U.K. Supreme Court Justices came.  Lord Nicholas Phillips welcomed the Temple Scholars to London and invited them to hear the initial part of the oral argument in the first case argued in the new Supreme Court dealing with the confiscation of assets of people and organizations suspected of financing terrorists.  The American Inns of Court group had separate meetings with Lord Phillips, Lord Igor Judge, the Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls, the head of the civil justice system in England and Wales, and Lord Harry Woolf, a former Chief Justice of England and Wales, who had twice been to Wake Forest to visit.  The group also went to each of the four English Inns of Court, Grays Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, Inner Temple, and Middle Temple, and attended criminal trials at Old Bailey, the central criminal court of London.

The four 2009 American Inns of Court Temple Bar Scholars are selected from a large pool of highly qualified law clerks who apply for the program.  This year three of the four scholars clerked for the United States Supreme Court.  The Temple Bar Scholars Program was created in 1991 by former Chief Justice Warren Burger and the late Lord Denning, former Master of the Rolls for England and Wales.  It is one of the exchange programs between the American Inns of Court and the English Inns to strengthen ties between leading members of the English and American Bars.

The American Inns of Court has more than 350 local chapters across the United States consisting of more than 27,000 active members and more than 80,000 alumni members. The American Inns of Court will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year. Professor Walsh is only the second non-judge president of the American Inns of Court.