Tuesday, Sep 02nd

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When Leolin Price began studying law at Oxford University, he had big dreams. “The common law needed protection, and I decided I would provide it. What an arrogant view,” he told The Suit. “I was very interested in politics and a career at the bar. If I could survive and become an efficient, reasonably well-known barrister, preferably becoming what in this country is Queen's Counsel at a relatively early age, I would be suitable as a candidate for Parliament. By luck, I survived the lean years, and did acquire, largely by accident, a considerable and flourishing practice. ”

But Price never made the switch from law to politics. “We were about to join what was called the Common Market, the European Communities. I had a special interest in that, and kept writing letters to the newspaper saying, 'Don't do it, it's contrary to our interests, contrary to our ideas, contrary to our law.' And those letters ditched my political career, so I simply stayed practicing at the bar,” he said. But he did become a Queen's Counsel, just as he'd planned.

Price has handled some very significant cases during his career as a barrister. In the now-landmark case British Railways Board and Picken, Price challenged what was thought to be a rule of law under the British Constitution. “I thought I could overcome the proposition that the courts in our system will not examine the procedural processes by which a bill becomes an Act of Parliament, a statute,” he said. “There was an old Scottish case which suggested how that could work and the proposition be overcome. But we failed. The courage of the Judges in the House of Lords (our final cost of appeal) failed them, and they stuck to an old case which said that all that the courts can do is to look at the roll of statutes and if it says a particular statute has been enacted, then it's part of the law of England.” Nevertheless, the case gave Price a reputation for being an expert in constitutional law.

Price now argues cases all over the world. “In all the countries that I've argued, in Australia, in Singapore, in Nairobi, in Bermuda, in the Bahamas, and other places in the Caribbean, in all those countries, the basic law is the Common Law,” he explained. “And so all the common law virtues – that the law should be certain, that equality before the law is an essential principle, that the abuses of power are to be restrained and new laws are to be organized so that they don't encourage abuses of power – it's all very much the same background.” In one appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Price was instructed to appeal pro hac vice, but the appeal by the US Government was dismissed without an oral hearing.

After 61 years of practicing law, Price still believes that defending the Common Law is the highest and most important ambition. “The common law should not be distorted. The law should be certain, individual rights should be assured, authority should be properly disciplined and not claim powers which are not being given. So my focus remains as it has always been,” he said.
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