Future family law - Mr Justice Moor

21 Nov 2013 | 6 min read

I was very honoured when I was asked to take over as Consulting Editor of the Butterworths Family Law Service approximately a year ago.  I was delighted to be able to accept and have very much enjoyed working with the Editorial Board – those who do the very hard work of keeping this important work thoroughly up to date.

There has, of course, been considerable sadness during the year.  First, we lost our Founding General Editor, Professor Peter Bromley, who died aged 90 after some months of illness.  Peter was unique in that he almost single-handedly created the academic study of Family Law, through his text book, the first Edition of which was published by Butterworths in 1957.  He conceived and developed the Butterworths Family Law Service as a looseleaf publication, identifying the needs of the profession for a comprehensive, authoritative, accessible and up-to-date text for every day reference by its subscribers.  Although he recruited a team of first rate authors to complete the project, he reviewed, commented on and corrected the whole text personally.  He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject.  He chaired the Editorial Board from 1983 to 1996, securing its place as the standard work of its kind.  He was of course Head of the Law School at Manchester University and generations of family lawyers have been inspired by his work as a teacher and writer.

Second, we lost my predecessor as Consulting Editor, Sir Christopher Sumner, who died aged 73 in August.  He was Consulting Editor from 2007 to 2012.  He brought to the post great wisdom and experience following a distinguished career at the Bar and on the Bench. He was steeped in family law.  I remember appearing in front of his father, His Honour Judge Donald Sumner QC in my early years at the Bar.  I then appeared regularly in front of Christopher, first in Wandsworth when he too was a Circuit Judge and then in the Royal Courts of Justice when he was quite rightly promoted to the High Court Bench.  He was mortified that, on my first appearance before him, he misread my name on the Advocates slip and got it wrong for about half a day until I summoned up the courage to correct him.  He remembered forever and told me at his retirement party how embarrassed he was.  He need not have been.  He was a delightful tribunal, provided your bundle was in good shape!  He was a courteous, caring man, who did his absolute best to provide justice in every case that came before him.  He was a pioneer in legal education, both for judges as Head of Family Training on the Judicial Studies Board and for the Bar, as Chairman of the Inner Temple’s Advocacy Training Committee.  He provided very significant support to the Editors of the Family Law Service.  Both Peter and Christopher will be sorely missed.

Despite these serious losses, it has been a very successful year for the Family Law Service.  Yet again, the Service has proved to be a pioneer by producing the new ADR binder.  I am quite sure that ADR is going to be a bedrock of Family Law in the years ahead.  Legal aid has disappeared almost completely from the private law landscape.  Her Majesty’s Court Service is facing ever greater challenges as a result of significant workload increases combined with large budget cuts.  As a result, Alternative Dispute Resolution is vital to the provision of justice going forward.  Yet, the system needs to be fair and robust.  It can only work within clear parameters and with well defined systems. The new ADR binder is, I believe, an invaluable tool to those practising in this area as well as those advising their clients on the process.  The binder was produced in almost record time.  Many congratulations and thanks to Helen Howard, who edited the Chapter on Mediation and Collaborative practice; to Grant Howell, for dealing with Arbitration; to Aina Khan for Islamic Alternative Dispute Resolution and to Sarah Anticoni for Jewish Alternative Dispute Resolution.  It is a truly impressive work.

Equally, the rest of the team have worked unstintingly to update the remainder of the work.  No-one can say that Family Law is a dull area of law that never changes.  If anything, the phenomenal pace of change has picked up.  We have the Single Family Court being driven forward by our indefatigable new President; there are going to be fundamental changes to Public Law Care Proceedings; we have Mr Justice Cobb’s vital work on private law proceedings, which have undoubtedly been complicated by the significant increase in litigants-in-person; there have been very important Supreme Court decisions, bolstered by our remarkable tally of three Supreme Court Justices who were once Judges of the Family Division.  It is exciting but it all leads to more work for those updating the Service.  I have nothing but praise for the authors and contributing editors who perform their task tirelessly, vigorously and with enormous skill.  And none of this would be possible without the General Editors, Grant Howell and Jonathan Montgomery, the Bulletin and Technical Editor, Geraldine Morris and the huge support provided by the LexisNexis in-house team.

Finally, I promised David Salter a joke.  As a judge, you have to be very careful what you say.  A wife applied for maintenance in front of a new and rather naïve judge.  The husband appeared in person.  At the end of the submissions, the new judge asked the husband to stand and said to him “I have reviewed the evidence in this case very carefully.  I’ve decided to give your wife £750 per week maintenance.”  The husband replied, as quick as a flash, “that is very generous and fair of you, my lord.  Every now and again I’ll try to send her a few quid myself”.

Thank you for coming and enjoy the rest of the evening.

This speech was was given at the LexisNexis event All change for family lawyers - future family law  at Prince Philip House, London on the 19 November 2013 and is reproduced by the kind permission of of Mr Justice Moor. 

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