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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

UK Supreme Court hears inaugural case
Steve Czajkowski at 7:27 AM ET

[JURIST] The UK Supreme Court [official website] held its first session [press release, PDF] Monday, hearing an appeal by a group of four terrorism suspects whose assets were frozen by the government. The new Supreme Court, created by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 [text], replaces the judicial panel of the House of Lords [official website] as Britain's highest tribunal, with 12 Law Lords [official backgrounder] from the House of Lords serving as the first Supreme Court justices. The court accepted [AP report] its first case because it involves human rights and terrorism, particularly whether the government can freeze assets without due process when terrorism charges are involved. In its first ruling [Press Gazette report] issued Monday, the court held that the media should be able to identify at least one of the men in the group because they are accused of supporting terrorism.

The Supreme Court was created to emphasize the split between the judicial and legislative branches of government. The court has said that "it will transform the public's awareness of justice at the highest level" and a "fundamental aim is to be as transparent as possible." The court will be the first in the UK to record proceedings [JURIST report] and make them available to the media. In most cases, the court will stand as the final court of appeal for England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Additionally, the justices of the Supreme Court will no longer be able to sit or vote with the House of Lords as they had done in their capacity as Law Lords. The Law Lords issued their final ruling [JURIST report] in July.

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