The books of Lord Denning: The Discipline of Law, The Due Process of Law, What Next in the Law, and The Closing Chapter
As some of you will know, I have an interest in legal theory and legal history and have recently sacrificed valuable reading time for some more in-depth study.
Anyways, last November I attended a in a seminar as part of my course - it's distance learning, so no classes to go to as such, just a couple of seminars every few months - and somehow we ended up discussing quite a few cases presided over by Lord Denning as well as the influence of judicial interpretation on the law - which in turn inevitably reverted back to Lord Denning who was one of the most, if not the most, influential and famous, some may say notorious, English judges of the twentieth century.
I am not going to copy down his biography or list of achievements. All of this can be easily found on the web, but his obituary gives a pretty good idea of the man.
So, in an effort to work through some of the historic cases I sat down to read Denning's first book The Discipline of Law and was amazed.
Denning had a reputation for presenting complex issues in simple language and using narrative to describe the facts of the case.
To give an idea, one of his judgements (Hinz v. Berry) famously begins as follows:
“It happened on April 19, 1964. It was bluebell time in Kent.”
What caught me by surprise about The Discipline of Law was the passion with which Denning writes about his profession. It was catching. So catching in fact that I read the book almost without breaks, and then started to look for Denning's subsequent publications.
Whilst The Discipline of Law is - in my opinion - the most enlightening and interesting of the canon, all of Denning's books are worth a read if interested in legal issues and history.
Of course, some aspects of Lord Denning's convictions are controversial and undeniably some of his judgements and statements are tainted with his personal bias towards conservatism, maybe even chauvinsm, but equally undeniably his disposition to solve complex issues was also ultra-modern.
“What is the argument on the other side? Only this, that no case has been found in which it has been done before. That argument does not appeal to me in the least. If we never do anything which has not been done before, we shall never get anywhere. The law will stand still whilst the rest of the world goes on: and that will be bad for both." (Packer v. Packer, 1954)
This juxtaposition keeps me thinking about Lord Denning even months after reading his books and which I cannot see myself grow tired of anytime soon.