Gordon Hewart (Lord Chief Justice)

“Gordon Hewart, 1st Viscount Hewart, PC, KC (7 January 1870 – 5 May 1943) was a politician and judge in the United Kingdom.”  Source: Wikipedia

Source: p. 35-40, “A Short Book of Bad Judges” by Graeme Williams QC

A disastrous appointment of the 20th Century.

He lacked only the one quality which should distinguish a judge: that of being judicial. He remained the perpetual advocate.

….had an infelicitous lack of judgment.

He was appointed in 1922 straight from the political office of Attorney-General to be Lord Chief Justice, without any judicial experience at all.  Professor Heuston described him as “perhaps the worst Lord Chief Justice since the seventeenth century”.

Born in Lancashire in 1870.

Educated at Manchester Grammar School and University College, Oxford.

In 1902, he was called to the Bar by Inner Temple  and joined the Northern Circuit.

In 1912 took silk.

In 1913 elected MP for Leicester East.

In 1916 became Solicitor-General.

In 1919 became Attorney-General.

In 1938 was the Treasurer of his Inn.

He was an active Freemason and a member of several Lodges. He had no judicial experience at all.

The position of the Lord Chief Justice was automatically filled by the Attorney-General at that time.

Prime Minister Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, did not want to loose Hewart’s services as Attorney-General so illegally he stopped Hewart fulfil his ambition and appointed another Judge, A.T.Lawrence (a 77 year old) who had to sign an undated letter of resignation so he could be sacked anytime.  He agreed to this and A.T. Lawrence became 1st Baron TrevethinLord Trevethin.

After one year in the office (15 April 1921 – 2 March 1922), Lord Trevethin, and Prime Minister Lloyd George lost the general election Hewart became Lord Chief Justice with no judicial experience whatsoever.

His failures which made him a disastrous appointment to a Judicial position:

  • formed a view of a case at a very early stage
  • was incapable of changing his mind thereafter

Acted as trial judge in Hobbs v Tinling & Co. Ltd. [1929] I KB I:

…at once formed a strongly adverse view of Hobbs, which his counsel was incapable of dislodging….

…Hobbs could not…have a fair second trial, in view of the adverse publicity about the first case….

…had not given fair trials to an aggrieved litigant…

Court of Appeal overturned Hewart’s orders and ordered new trials on the ground that Hewart had not given him fair hearings, and had made a number of procedural mistakes.

Court of Appeal criticism of Hewart:

Scrutton LJ:  “I regret to say I do not think (Hobbs) had …a trial according to the rules of law.”

Greer LJ: “The Lord Chief Justice was too greatly influenced by the unfavourable opinion he had formed of the plaintiff.”

Sankey LJ (a future Lord Chancellor): “The case required careful and patient investigation, which it did not receive.”

Lord Hewart C.J. had a look of typical grumpiness and his photos emphasise “his eminence and importance”.

Retired in 1940 and advanced to a Viscountcy.

Lord Hewart C.J. was the originator (paraphrased from the original) of the aphorism “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.”  From the case:  R v Sussex Justices, ex p McCarthy    Source: Wikipedia.

Died in 1943

He is the:

….embodiment of badness in judges…

Find out who is the worse judge since Lord Hewart C.J. and one who mirrors Lord Hewart C.J. bad behaviour as a judge. Click here for Lord Wilson.