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Insolvency Law

Expert guidance on all aspects of corporate and personal insolvency

06 MAY 2011

The New Supremes: Mr Jonathan Sumption OBE QC and Lord Justice Wilson and insolvency

The recent announcement that Mr Jonathan Sumption OBE QC, the acclaimed historian and barrister (for an excellent interview see here), has been appointed to the Supreme Court could not pass the blog by without some reflection on his not inconsiderable contact with the insolvency laws during his work as an advocate. In a more orthodox appointment, in terms of rising through the judicial hierarchy, Lord Justice Wilson has been elevated from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court. We can also consider his insolvency contribution here. The successful applicants have commented on their appointments. Lord Justice Wilson said: “I am deeply honoured by my appointment which presents a huge challenge and casts a heavy burden of responsibility. I hope to contribute wisely to the development of the law.” Mr Jonathan Sumption QC said: “This is a challenging time for the development of the law, and I am honoured to have the opportunity of contributing to the work of one of the world’s great common law courts.” Now let us turn to the most important question - have either of these new Supreme Court Justices had much impact hitherto on the insolvency jurisdiction? A brief perusal of the cases throws up the following;

Re HIH, McGrath and others v. Riddell and others [2008] UKHL 21 - this case concerned the principle of judicial comity under s 426 of the Insolvency Act 1986 (IA86) and whether differences in pari passu distribution between friendly jurisdictions justified refusal of assistance
Inherent jurisdiction of court and whether such common law jurisdiction exists to disapply English principle of pari passu distribution by allowing assets to be transferred to a foreign liquidation.
C Re Park Air Services plc, Christopher Moran Holdings Ltd v Bairstow and another [1999] 14 EG 149 - this case concerned the disclaimer of a lease and determination of loss and damage to a landlord under section 178(6) of IA86.
Powdrill and another v Watson and another ; Re Leyland DAF Ltd (No 2) ; Re Ferranti International plc [1995] 1 BCLC 386 - the world famous case on the adoption of employment contracts. Sumption acted for the administrators. 
Re New Bullas Trading Ltd [1994] 1 BCLC 485 - the famous case on the characterisation of a charge on book debts - is it floating is it fixed - now resolved by Re Spectrum.
MS Fashions Ltd and others v Bank of Credit and Commerce International SA (in liq) and others (No 2) [1993] BCLC 1200 - the famous case on set-off.

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