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Supreme Court’s ‘swashbuckling’ chief Hale aims parting shots at sexists, politics

LONDON (Reuters) – Trailblazing feminist judge Brenda Hale used her valedictory speech as president of the UK Supreme Court on Wednesday to call for the judiciary to remain free from U.S.-style political influence and to poke fun at enduring sexism in the legal world.

FILE PHOTO: Head of Supreme Court of the United Kingdom Lady Brenda Hale announces ruling, that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament was unlawful, ahead of Brexit, at the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in London, Britain September 24, 2019, in this still image taken from Supreme Court/Parliament TV footage. Supreme Court/Parliament TV via Reuters

State-school educated Hale, 74, rose to the top of a profession dominated by men who went to elite private schools. She was the first female member of the Law Lords, the precursor to the Supreme Court, and subsequently the first female justice of the Supreme Court and its first woman president.

She grabbed the international spotlight in September when she delivered a devastating ruling against Prime Minister Boris Johnson, annulling his decision to suspend parliament at a crucial moment in the Brexit process.

Some irate Brexit supporters accused the Supreme Court of meddling in politics, although Hale had been at pains to make clear that the court was making no judgment on the merits of Brexit and merely addressing legal issues.

In a short speech at a ceremony to mark her retirement from the court, Hale stressed the apolitical nature of the court.

“We do not know one another’s political opinions, although occasionally we may have a good guess, and long may that remain so,” she said.

“Judges have not been appointed for party political reasons in this country since at least the Second World War.

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