The case was brought in 2008 by relatives of a businessman who died during a heart operation two weeks after he had agreed to a management buy-out. This left his daughters liable for £1.3m in inheritance tax. They argue that the law firm Mills & Reeve should have advised the businessman to delay the buy-out until after the operation, thus avoiding the adverse tax consequences.
It turned out that Mr Justice Peter Smith "had personal direct experience of a procedure which was either the same as or very similar to that which [the businessman] underwent".
Last month, the Court of Appeal ordered a new trial. Lord Justice Lloyd said:
The judge has expressed strong views as to the prospects of that claim, as I have mentioned above. He has also expressed strong views unfavourable to the defendants, though not in relation to this aspect of the case. In those circumstances it seems to me plain that when the trial starts again, it should be heard by a different judge.
This is not the first time that Mr Justice Peter Smith has expressed strong views about a law firm.
In 2007, I argued that Mr Justice Peter Smith had lost his judgment and should leave the bench.
I stand by what I said then, although I subsequently apologised to the judge for revealing that he had been suffering from a serious illness of which some members of his family had, at that time, been unaware.
Joshua Rozenberg is an independent legal commentator who presents Law in Action on BBC Radio 4.
- Chronicling The Crash: A Standpoint Ebook
- Grounds for Hope
- Is Islam a Peaceful Religion? Daniel Johnson at the Oxford Union
- Standpoint's Autumn Salons
- Win Tickets to the Inaugural Standpoint Salon
- Is Hunter's History Bunk?
- Lawson Collects on Climate Change Bet
- The Cabinet meeting that kept Salman Rushdie alive
- Russia's Win-Win Election
- The Kremlin Plays Old Tricks With Pussy Riot
- A Pyrrhic Victory for Georgian Democracy
- Abandoned in Moscow
- Standpoint's New Facebook Page
- No need to pander to the Bear, Mr Obama
- Standpoint Recommends: The Tacitus Lecture 2012
- Goodbye, Vienna
- Friends Indeed — Daniel Johnson on Gertrude Himmelfarb
- New Culture Forum Lecture: Jeremy Hunt
- Kangaroo Courts Arrive Down Under
- The BBC's painful novelties
- Money can't buy you love - Nichi Hodgson
- World Youth Day Diary: Day Four
- World Youth Day Diary: Day Three
- World Youth Day Diary: Day Two
- World Youth Day Diary: Day One
- Breivik and Anti-Muslim Bigotry