New Appeals Court Judge
Sir Bernard Rix, a recently retired Lord Justice of Appeal with 20 years' experience in the Commercial Court and Court of Appeal of England and Wales, commenced sitting on Monday (3 November) in the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal.
Appointed in October last year, Sir Bernard was sworn in on Monday, 3 November, by Her Excellency the Governor, Helen Kilpatrick.
As a barrister, judge, and more recently as an arbitrator, Sir Bernard has specialized in international commercial and arbitral disputes. His non-legal interests are similarly noteworthy, his having the distinction of appearing in the opera, Der Rosenkavalier, at the English National Opera in London in a singing role, and serving for nearly 30 years as a director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Chief Justice Anthony Smellie said it was an honour to be able to welcome Sir Bernard as a member of Cayman's judiciary: "Sir Bernard is a distinguished jurist who has made a very significant contribution to the development of British jurisprudence."
The Islands' Chief Justice said that he looked forward to similarly "important contributions he will certainly make to the development of Cayman Islands' jurisprudence," adding: "I hope that he and Lady Rix will enjoy their times spent in Cayman."
With his specialization in commercial law and Cayman's importance as global financial centre, Sir Bernard brings a wealth of relevant expertise to the Court of Appeal. At the same time, in the next three weeks the Court of Appeal will be deliberating on many matters having to do with criminal law, and that is an agenda that also fits well with his depth of experience.
In carrying out this role, he said it was a great privilege and honour to be trusted with the whole process of being a judge. "It is a wonderful job, for all its hardships and difficulties, to be asked to think about the problems of people."
Other currently sitting members of the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal are the President, Sir John Chadwick, and Justices Elliott Mottley, John Martin and Sir George Newman. Justices sit in three's for three sessions each year, each of which tends to be for three weeks.
Sir Bernard was appointed to the High Court of England and Wales in 1993, sitting predominantly in the Commercial Court, of which he was judge-in-charge 1998-99. During that year he was responsible for introducing to the Commercial Court the Woolf Reforms to civil procedure law (the CPR) and for redrafting the Commercial Court's Guide and Practice Directions.
In 2000 he was appointed to the Court of Appeal, from which he retired in May 2013. As a member of the Court of Appeal, he delivered a wide range of judgments in every area of the law, both civil and criminal, and in the commercial field; these included judgments on arbitration, aviation, banking, insurance and reinsurance, private and public international law, oil and gas, sale of goods and shipping disputes.
As a barrister, he appeared in the courts of Singapore and Hong Kong, also, and is a member of the HKIAC (The Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre) Panel of Arbitrators.
He is now based at Chambers in England and was recently appointed as Professor of International Commercial Law, at Queen Mary, University of London.
This legal path began in a very real sense when he was eight years old, when he knew, he said, that he wanted to be a barrister. Even as a young lawyer, he was quickly recognised. His most exciting date ever in court, he said, was back in 1975, when, still a junior lawyer, he argued a case that raised a question about "Sovereign Immunity," which at that time in England gave absolute immunity to the state against law suits. At that time, however, many countries had adopted the principle of the "Restricted Doctrine" of immunity, making the state's involvement in commerce an exception.
Appearing before Lord Denning, the most celebrated English judge of the 20th century, he was thrilled to receive word from the Clerk that Lord Denning was very interested and asked him to take his time in presenting his appeal.
As a judge, later important cases included one in which the fundamental jurisdictional scope of the European Convention on Human Rights was challenged. The case, R (Al-Skeini) v. Secretary of State for Defence , raised the question of whether the British Ministry of Defence was responsible in the deaths of people who were killed by British troops overseas, in this case in Iraq, or whether the convention applied only in Britain.
It was brilliantly argued on both sides, said Sir Bernard, who was one of two judges in the divisional court. The case ultimately went to the Strasbourg Court, the international court established in France to be the final arbiter of human rights arguments.
"This was one of the interesting cases as a judge," Sir Bernard said, in the context of its involving application of international law.
Other significant judgments involving international law delivered during Sir Bernard's tenure at the Court of Appeal of England and Wales include Dallah v. Government of Pakistan , on international enforcement of arbitration awards (upheld by the Supreme Court); Kuwait Airways v. Iraqi Airways (upheld by the House of Lords); and Yukos v. Rosneft , on the act of state doctrine.
Preparing him for this distinguished legal and judicial career, the new Cayman Islands Court of Appeal Judge's university education was at New College, Oxford, and Harvard Law School. He was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 1970 and practised in commercial chambers at 3 Essex Court. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1981.
Other positions held now or in the past include chairman of COMBAR (1992-93), the Commercial Bar Association formed in July 1989 to bring together self-employed barristers who practise in the field of international and commercial law. He also served as treasurer of the Inner Temple (2005), and was appointed Honorary Fellow, New College, Oxford, and at Queen Mary's, University of London. Since 2002, he has served as president of the Harvard Law School Association of the UK.
Sir Bernard is currently serving as Chairman of the Advisory Council of the Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary, University of London. He served as Trustee, BIICL (British Institute of International and Comparative Law) from 2003 to 2012, and in 2007 he served as President of BILA (British Insurance Law Association).
On the non-legal side, reflecting his love of music, he only recently retired as director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, a position he held since 1986; he also appeared in the famous opera, Der Rosenkavalier, by the celebrated composer Richard Strauss.
Now that Sir Bernard is bringing this diversity to Cayman, both in terms of his cultural and legal interests, he is happy that he is not only serving as a judge but that he is doing so in the Caribbean.
"I spent some happy times in the Caribbean on holidays," he said.