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Insolvency Law

Expert guidance on all aspects of corporate and personal insolvency

02 NOV 2010

Kerr & Hunter on Receivers and Administrators - Previous Editions and Editors

I am currently reviewing the 19th edition of Kerr & Hunter on Receivers and Administrators for a law journal. The 19th edition is edited by Mr Malcolm Davis-White QC, of 4 Stone Buildings, perhaps best known for his monograph on directors’ disqualification, and Nottingham University’s Dr Sandra Frisby, whose Ph.D thesis was on the law and practice of contractual receivership. Dr Frisby is perhaps now best known for her work on pre-packaged administrations. There are also contributions from Professor David Bennett, a consultant within the corporate department at Gillespie Macandrew and a visiting Professor of Company Law at University of Edinburgh, and, Mr Michael Jones, a barrister practising from Gray's Inn Tax Chambers. As part of the process of reviewing the 19th edition I have been investigating previous editions and the editors who shaped the book over the last one hundred and forty one years. I thought I would place the fruits of my investigations into the previous editions of the text here. The focus of the law journal review is on the current edition. So where did Kerr all begin?

Mr William Williamson Kerr (1820-1902) was a barrister who was called to the bar by Lincoln’s Inn on 7 June 1851.[1] He practiced as an equity draftsman and conveyancer in Lincoln’s Inn, at the Chapel Stairs.[2] At his disposal he may have had, inter alia, a copy of William Smith’s treatise on Receivers in the Court of Chancery,[3] or Lord Redesdale’s Treatise on Pleadings in Suits in the Court of Chancery,[4] to assist him on the finer points of chancery law and practice. Kerr may however have felt that these works were defective or that a lacuna existed in the textbook treatment on receivers and managers. He promptly filled the gap. Kerr published the first edition of his own book, A Treatise on the Law and Practice as to Receivers appointed by the Court of Chancery, in 1869.[5] Subsequent editions appeared under his hand in 1882[6] and 1891.[7] An American edition of the book was also published in 1877.[8] Kerr also produced a book on fraud and mistake.[9] His name would be associated with the book for a further one hundred and eighteen years although the editorial reigns were handed over for the 4th edition. This was published in 1900 under the editorship of PF Wheeler, with assistance from Charles Burney.[10] Percy F Wheeler BCL was called to the bar by Lincoln’s Inn on 29 June 1881.[11] Honours followed shortly thereafter. He obtained a studentship in 1880 and a certificate of honour in 1881.[12] He practiced from 8 New Square, Lincoln’s Inn. The Wheeler/Burney tenure did not last long. WD Rawlins took over for the 5th edition. This appeared in 1905.[13] A silk, William Donaldson Rawlins QC was called to the bar by Lincoln’s Inn on 30 April 1872.[14] He practiced from One New Square. There then followed the second longest run of editorial control when F.C. Watmough took over in 1912. Watmough, a trusts specialist, edited six editions including, the 6th (1912),[15] 7th (1921),[16] 8th (1924),[17] 9th (1930),[18] 10th (1935),[19] and 11th (1946).[20] Frank Cuthbert Watmough was called to the bar by Middle Temple in June 1904.[21] He practiced from 23 Old Square, Lincoln’s Inn and could be contacted by telephone on Holborn 4814. His reported insolvency cases include Re Pilkington's Will Trusts[22] and Re Woolgar, Woolgar v Hopkins.[23]

Sir Raymond Walton MA BCL (1915-1988), the distinguished and much admired Chancery court judge, took over editorial control of the text in 1952. He subsequently edited the book for over 36 years. He was responsible for the 12th (1952),[24] 13th (1963),[25] 14th (1972),[26] 15th (1978),[27] 16th (1983)[28] and 17th (1989) editions.[29] He was also the consultant editor of the 14th edition of Buckley on the Companies Acts[30] and the 17th edition of Adkin's Landlord and Tenant.[31] As an undergraduate at Balliol Sir Raymond had been President of the Oxford Union in 1938 before being called to the bar by the Lincoln’s Inn in January 1939.[32] He was elevated to the High Court bench in 1972 following a spell as head of chambers at 3 New Square, Lincoln’s Inn.[33] Sir Raymond was a great fan of Sherlock Holmes. There are a number of amusing asides in his judgments, not unconnected with the wide world of insolvency. Here are some choice snippets from Sir Raymond's judgments:

"So far as the three brothers were concerned, none of them struck me as being a particularly good witness. In particular, there is the astonishing case, of which Mr. Sherlock Holmes would doubtless have desired to have been seized, of the invisible brokers' men. So far as Lowcroft is concerned, which was indeed the main concern of the third brother, the fifth defendant and their brother Surjit, there appears to have been a considerable number of brokers' men taking possession under executions without having been observed by anybody doing so."[34]

Sir Raymond was also involved in the Poulson case,[35] a famous tale of corruption and bribery that caused a later Kerr editor more than a two-pipe problem. Sir Raymond managed to evoke an image worthy of the famous Baker Street detective in the Poulson case as well. He noted:

"We remind ourselves again that the object of the examination is to obtain assets to swell the estate. Suppose, to take a romantic example, the person being examined says “Oh, yes, I know what became of all those Kruggerrands you have been talking about. The debtor went and buried them in a desert island, the one marked on this map at P, and I am certain that they all are still there.” Is such a statement to be made available to the debtor, and any creditor who has proved as of right under bankruptcy rule 15? The answer is obviously in the negative; it takes time to gather a ship's company, hire a suitable vessel, and sail off to the South Seas to recover the gold; and if while the trustee is doing all this — possibly having difficulty with the raising of the necessary funds to man the expedition — creditors are entitled as of right to learn precisely when and where the ill-gotten gains are secreted, or in the case of the bankrupt himself that the trustee knew this, the whole purpose of the examination will be self-stultifying. The fact that the treasure is more likely, in modern times, to be buried in a numbered bank account in Switzerland or elsewhere and that the forces which have to be mustered to man the expedition are more likely to be prosaic lawyers and accountants rather than swashbuckling sea captains is nihil ad rem (save that they are likely to be even more expensive)."[36]

The responsibility for maintaining Kerr, particularly after the introduction of administrators by the Insolvency Act 1986, was taken up by Professor Muir Hunter QC in 1989. As noted above, he had been involved with the text since the 15th edition of 1978, but in an assistant role to the main editor, Sir Raymond Walton. The text became Kerr and Hunter on Receivers and Administrators. Hunter co-edited the 17th edition (1989)[37] with Sir Raymond and the sole edited 18th edition of 2005 (pictured).[38] It is perhaps a strange anomaly that neither Watmough (six editions) or Walton (six editions) had their names added to that of Kerr as general editors of the text.

Sir Raymond died in 1988.[39] The 17th edition of 1989 was the last to have been edited by him. Muir died in October 2008,[40] three years after completing the 18th edition on his own account. Only the latter’s name however adorns the book that is the subject matter of my law journal review. The citation to that review will hopefully follow shortly!!

________________________________________
[1] Law Society. Law list, being a list of judges and officers of the different Courts of Justice, counsel, certificated attorneys, notaries, &c., in England and Wales. V. & R. Stevens and G.S. Norton, London, 1841-1976, at volume 1853.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Smith, W. A Practical Treatise on the Office and Duty of a Receiver under the Court of Chancery, in Ireland; with an Appendix of Precedents. 3rd Edition, with additions. 8vo, Dublin 1836.
[4] Mitford, J. A Treatise on the Pleadings in Suits in the Court of Chancery. By English Bill. 4th edition, with additional References and Notes. By George Jeremy. 8vo. London, 1827.
[5] London, 1869.
[6] Kerr, WW. A treatise on the law and practice as to Receivers appointed by the High Court of Justice . 2nd Ed. W. Maxwell & Son, London, 1882.
[7] Kerr, WW. A Treatise on the Law and Practice as to Receivers. 3rd Ed. Sweet & Maxwell, London, 1891.
[8] Kerr, WW. A treatise on the law and practice as to receivers appointed by the Court of Chancery ... With notes and references to American authorities by G. T. Bispham. Second American edition. Philadelphia, 1877.
[9] Kerr, WW. A Treatise on the Law of Fraud and Mistake as administered in Courts of Equity. W. Maxwell & Son, London, 1868.
[10] Wheeler, PF. Kerr on the Law and Practice as to Receivers. 4th Ed. Sweet & Maxwell, London, 1900.
[11] Law Society. Law list, being a list of judges and officers of the different Courts of Justice, counsel, certificated attorneys, notaries, &c., in England and Wales. V. & R. Stevens and G.S. Norton, London, 1841-1976, at volume 1900.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Rawlins, WD. The Law and Practice as to Receivers. 5th Ed. Sweet & Maxwell, London, 1905.
[14] Law Society. Law list, being a list of judges and officers of the different Courts of Justice, counsel, certificated attorneys, notaries, &c., in England and Wales. V. & R. Stevens and G.S. Norton, London, 1841-1976, at volume 1900.
[15] Watmough, FC. The Law and Practice as to Receivers. 6th Ed. Sweet & Maxwell, London, 1912.
[16] Watmough, FC. The Law and Practice as to Receivers. 7th Ed. Sweet & Maxwell, London: Carswell Co.: Toronto, 1921.
[17] Watmough, FC. The Law and Practice as to Receivers. 8th Ed. Sweet & Maxwell, London, 1924.
[18] Watmough, FC. The Law and Practice as to Receivers. 9th Ed. Sweet & Maxwell, London, 1930.
[19] Watmough, FC. The Law and Practice as to Receivers. 10th Ed. Sweet & Maxwell, London, 1935.
[20] Watmough, FC. The Law and Practice as to Receivers. 11th Ed. Sweet & Maxwell, London, 1946.
[21] Law Society. Law list, being a list of judges and officers of the different Courts of Justice, counsel, certificated attorneys, notaries, &c., in England and Wales. V. & R. Stevens and G.S. Norton, London, 1841-1976, at volume 1943.
[22] [1937] Ch. 574.
[23] [1942] 1 All ER 583.
[24] Walton, R. Kerr on the Law and Practice as to Receivers 12th Ed. Sweet & Maxwell, London, 1952. (with A Wilfred Sarson).
[25] Walton, R. Kerr on the Law and Practice as to Receivers. 13th Ed. Sweet & Maxwell, London, 1963.
[26] Walton, R. Kerr on the Law and Practice as to receivers. 14th Ed. Sweet and Maxwell, London, 1972.
[27] Walton, R. Kerr on the Law and Practice as to receivers.15th Ed.. Sweet and Maxwell, London, 1978. (with a chapter on extra-territoriality and associated appendices by Muir Hunter).
[28] Walton, R. Kerr on the Law and Practice as to receivers. 16th Ed. Sweet & Maxwell, London, 1983. (with a chapter on extra-territoriality and associated appendices by Muir Hunter).
[29] Walton, R and Hunter, M. Kerr on law and practice as to receivers and administrators. 17th Ed. Sweet & Maxwell, London, 1989.
[30] Parker, GB & Buckley, M (Eds). Buckley on the Companies Acts. Vol’s. 1 & 2. 14th Ed. Butterworths, London, 1981.
[31] Walton, R & Essayan, M. Adkin’s landlord and tenant. 17th Ed. London: Estates Gazette, 1973.
[32] Law Society. Law list, being a list of judges and officers of the different Courts of Justice, counsel, certificated attorneys, notaries, &c., in England and Wales. V. & R. Stevens and G.S. Norton, London, 1841-1976, at volume 1951.
[33] See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2007/apr/26/guardianobituaries.obituaries
[34] Bank of Baroda v Panessar & Ors, Panessar & Ors. v Bank of Baroda & Anor (1986) 2 B.C.C. 99 288.
[35] See: Tribe, J. The Poulson Affair: Corruption and the role of Bankruptcy Law Public Examinations in the early 1970s [2010] 22(3) King's Law Journal, pp. 495-528.
[36] In re Poulson (A Bankrupt) [1976] 1 W.L.R. 1023.
[37] Walton, R & Hunter, M. Kerr on the law and practice as to receivers and administrators; with a contribution from David A. Bennett. 17th Ed. Sweet & Maxwell, London, 1989.
[38] Hunter, M. Kerr and Hunter on receivers and administrators.18th ed. Sweet & Maxwell, London, 2005.
[39] There appear to be no extant obituaries for the learned judge.
[40] See Hunter’s obituaries in: The Daily Telegraph, 22 October 20, The Guardian Wednesday 26 November 2008.

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