Monday, November 2, 2009
Who is Lady Brenda Hale?
"A home maker as well as a judge, she thoroughly enjoyed helping the artists and architects create a new home for The Supreme Court." The Supreme Court in question is the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
Brenda Hale, whose full title is Lady Hale, Justice of The Supreme Court, The Right Honorable the Baroness Hale of Richmond, is the only woman on The Supreme Court. In addition to describing her as a "home maker as well as a judge," The Supreme Court's website biographical entry states:
Lady Hale became the United Kingdom’s first woman Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in January 2004, after a varied career as an academic lawyer, law reformer, and judge. She is now the first woman Justice of The Supreme Court.
After graduating from Cambridge in 1966, she taught law at Manchester University from 1966 to 1984, also qualifying as a barrister and practising for a while at the Manchester Bar. She specialised in Family and Social Welfare law, was founding editor of the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, and authored a pioneering case book on ‘The Family, Law and Society’.
A 2004 profile of Lady Hale in The Guardian, when Hale was the first woman and the youngest to join The Supreme Court's predecessor, is less staid. The Guardian described how Hale served on the Law Commission presiding over a "far-reaching revamp of family law including no-fault divorce," which was seen by some as subverting family values. Apparently, her personal life also came under scrutiny: She and a fellow Law Commissioner were scolded for marrying each other "only nine days after her divorce and ten days after his."
Opponents to her judicial appointment criticized her as a "hardline feminist," although according to The Guardian Hale admits to being a "being a "softline" feminist who believes in equality for men and women." Yet she has also agreed that women judges are different from male judges.
Justice Brenda Hale and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg participated in an hour long discussion at Georgetown last year. Hale's discussion serves as an excellent primer of the British judicial system, including the powers of the judiciary to declare a law void. Ginsburg and Hale address their Court's citation of international law and foreign law.
The UK Supreme Court website, including the cases for the Michelmas term, is also worth a look.