The lord chief justice was concerned with more than just article 50 this week.
For anyone with even a passing interest in the legal profession, it will be unsettling to see our judiciary under such public attack from the media this morning.
The three judges who maintained that parliament must vote on Brexit before article 50 is triggered are not, of course, ‘enemies of the people’, but public servants. Even lawyers who disagree with the judgment have commended its rigour.
It would be nice if our lord chancellor, who last month praised the judiciary as ‘rightly celebrated for being independent, impartial and utterly incorruptible’, were to choose now to repeat such a sentiment. We live in hope.
I suspect, from having met a few judges in my time, that this will largely be water off their backs. Judges are not known for getting flustered or pressured in the face of hostility, and this furore will pass – although the undermining of the rule of law continues to have a drip-drip effect that we should all be concerned with.
Largely ignored by the media but no less important was another public pronouncement from the lord chief justice this week.
In his annual report to parliament, he spoke of his colleagues facing ‘unprecedented difficulties’ and described how difficult it is to attract candidates to the bench – and how low morale is for those who have taken the jump.
These were uncommonly critical words from a serving lord chief justice. There is a convention that the judiciary will not publicly slate government policy, but calling for a ‘better and balanced means of financing the courts’ is about as critical as you can get whilst not breaking with that convention.
The message of the report is clear: judges are fed up with picking up the slack for the government’s failure to stem the avalanche of working coming through the courts, and having to guide litigants in person through the complex process of litigation.
We’re hardly likely to see them on the picket line any time soon, but too much more and the benches will simply not be filled – or places taken by inferior candidates.
I don’t expect too much sympathy from equally hard-pressed solicitors – many of who have seen their workload considerably increased by the civil justice reforms created by one judge in particular.
But the irony of the Brexit judges calling for parliament to have its say is that parliament has done precious little to improve the justice system for them.
Today’s headlines won’t cause any lasting damage to our thick-skinned judiciary, but the failure to invest in our justice system certainty has.
John Hyde is Gazette deputy news editor