EWHC 1985 (TCC) SRCL Limited is a procurement case and therefore generally outside the remit of this blog. However it is a useful reminder of the common law’s approach to citing academic authority:
Fraser J discusses it at 180 ff: ‘The historic common law convention was that academic views could only be cited as authority in courts if the author was dead, and if the work in question had achieved a level of respectability in any event. There was also, perhaps, a third requirement (although it could be seen as a subset of the second) that the author themselves had to have been either a judge or practitioner. Professor Arrowsmith is very much alive, and has a high reputation as an academic in the field of procurement law.’
Reference is made to Lord Neuberger’s 2012 lecture “Judges and Professors – Ships passing in the night?”, including discussion of what may have been a compelling reason for the rule or convention: at 181: ‘A dead author cannot change their mind. Although Lord Neuberger was not convinced that this was a good reason, it does have the merit of certainty.’
At 182: ‘The conclusion of Lord Neuberger is clear however – the convention has now been eroded, and there is a dialogue between judges and academics to the benefit of all. Textbooks of living authors are regularly cited in court – they do not have the same status as judgments under the doctrine of stare decisis, but they are persuasive and the views of an academic such as Professor Arrowsmith do have weight in this arena.’
When I earlier shared the judgment on Linked-in, one of my contacts justifiably mentioned that the love (lost) between academia and the courts in the UK might be mutual: the suggestion was that too much scholarly analysis disregards practice implications too readily.
By way of conclusion, as professor Arrowsmith herself noted, ‘The fact that I am, fortunately, still alive, was just one of the important issues discussed in a recent High Court case on procurement. …For the record, it was decided that my views are highly persuasive – but not as important as they might be if I were dead.’