Everyone loves a courtroom drama – and the Supreme Court has *delivered* this week.
In case you haven’t already heard, 11 Supreme Court justices are deciding whether it was lawful for Boris Johnson to suspend – or ‘prorogue’ – parliament for five weeks ahead of the Brexit deadline.
The judges are hearing appeals from two cases – one in which judges ruled that the prime minister’s decision was “unlawful” and another in which a challenge to the suspension of parliament failed.
So what happened on day two of the hearing? Here’s everything you missed.
The Government’s Argument
First up was Sir James Eadie, representing the government. He argued that the decision to suspend parliament was one for politicians – not the courts.
The power to prorogue parliament is “expressly preserved by parliament”, Eadie said.
Meanwhile, the government’s lawyer told judges there were no laws relevant to Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament, meaning the courts could not intervene.
Decisions to shut down parliament “are inherently and fundamentally political in nature”, Eadie argued.
“They will involve considerations about how most effectively and efficiently to manage the conduct of the government’s business, including specifically its legislative agenda in parliament.”
Eadie’s argument comes after Lord Pannick – the lawyer representing businesswoman Gina Miller after her challenge against Johnson in the High Court failed – argued on Tuesday that the PM had shut down parliament in order to avoid scrutiny from MPs over Brexit.
“No prime minister has abused his power in the manner in which we allege in at least the last 50 years,” he told the court.
More Bundle Trouble
It wasn’t all super serious in the court on Wednesday though. Just like the first day of the hearing, there was some *serious* bundle trouble.
The Supreme Court justices – and Eadie – were left fumbling through their packs of evidence after it became clear there had been an issue with numbering the pages.
Things only got worse when Lady Hale, the president of the court, revealed that her computer wasn’t working.
It’s comforting to know that even very important people have tech issues.
What Joanna Cherry’s Lawyer Had To Say
Earlier this month, Edinburgh’s Court of Session – the highest court in Scotland – found that Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament was “unlawful” following a challenge from a cross-party group of MPs and peers.
Led by SNP MP Joanna Cherry, the group argued that the prime minister had shut down parliament for political reasons.
On Wednesday, the group’s QC Aidan O’Neill argued that the Supreme Court should dismiss the government’s appeal against the ruling in Scotland.
In impassioned concluding remarks after almost two hours of lively submissions, O’Neill said: “Stand up for truth, stand up for reason, stand up for diversity, stand up for Parliament, stand up for democracy by dismissing this Government appeal and upholding a constitution governed by laws, not the passing whims of men.
“What we have with prorogation is the mother of parliaments closed down by the father of lies. Lies have consequences – but the truth will set us free.
“Rather than allow lies to triumph, this court should listen to the angels of its better nature and rule that this prorogation is an unlawful abuse of power of prorogation which has been entrusted to the Government.
“But this Government has shown itself unworthy of our trust as it uses the power of office to which is corrosive of the constitution and destructive of the system of parliamentary representative democracy on which our union polity is founded.
“Enough is enough. Dismiss this appeal and let them know that. This is what truth speaking to power sounds like.”
Meanwhile, O’Neill argued that, in comparison to the High Court in London, the Court of Session had the advantage of “distance”.
“A quality that might be most necessary in this case, for the understanding and untangling of the issues involved … is a bit of distance,” he said.
“Distance lends perspective, it lends discernment and sometimes it might lend disenchantment.”
He added: “One of the advantages that the Inner House has had in this case, which the Divisional Court (the High Court) did not, is precisely that distance.
“What this means is that this court and this appeal has had the advantage of a view from the periphery – what all this heated debate and political machinations looks like from 400 miles away, far from the fever and excitement of the nation’s capital, outside the Westminster bubble.”