The Business of Judging

Tom Bingham

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

This passage was used by Lord Atkin in his famous dissenting judgment in Liversidge v. Anderson (1942), where he protested about the construction of a statute by the majority.

Lord Atkin was asked by the Lord Chancellor then, to delete this passage, but he declined. The majority of judges later cold-shouldered Lord Atkin as they were unhappy with his usage of the Humpty Dumpty quote. (See The Business of Judging by Tom Bingham)

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