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Challenging posts for Sorabji and Greenberg
Two leading lawyers have been appointed to jobs that are as challenging as they will be fascinating. Dr John Sorabji will be deputy private secretary to the King, today’s Telegraph reports, while Daniel Greenberg CB has been confirmed by MPs as the new Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
Sorabji is listed by UCL as a lecturer (teaching) with four higher degrees and 94 publications to his name. His chambers in Manchester say that his principal specialism is data protection law, adding that he is an expert in constitutional law and procedural law. He has also taught regularly at the University of Paris-II, as a visiting professor. Announcing his appointment to the Civil Justice Council in August, the Ministry of Justice noted that he was general editor of the White Book, the authoritative guide to civil procedure in the courts of England and Wales (which now sells for almost £1000).
But these references merely hint at the breadth of his learning and the modesty with which he wears it. As master of the rolls and head of civil justice, Lord Neuberger used to deliver lectures of huge charm and erudition, beginning with a sweep of legal history and ending with a profound truth. A footnote would acknowledge that they were written by Sorabji, his legal secretary. In future, I am confident, such speeches will be delivered by the King.
Greenberg cuts an unmistakable figure in the Palace of Westminster, his formal black jacket and waistcoat set off by a prominent black kippah. A lawyer specialising in the legislative process, he drafted statutes for 20 years and then served for five years as one of the Speaker’s counsel. As part of a varied career, he also makes regular appearances on the BBC’s Thought for the Day.
A total of 21 candidates applied to succeed Kathryn Stone as parliament’s standards commissioner when her term of office expires at the end of this year, far fewer than the 81 who applied in 2017. Greenberg was the only candidate who made it to the final interview but, said Chris Bryant MP yesterday, he was “an absolute corker”:
Daniel Greenberg is quite phenomenal… He has advised the Standards Committee several times, and done so with considerable wit, rapier intelligence and sometimes rather frighteningly… He was absolutely magnificent at interview; I was giving him 10 out of 10 on every single one of the key criteria on experiences and abilities needed to fulfil the role.
Having given evidence to Bryant’s committee myself, I can confirm that assessment. Greenberg took me aside after I left the committee room and tested my proposals both rigorously and charmingly.
His appointment was supported yesterday by MPs from all the main parties. There were also tributes to Stone. As parliament’s “sleaze watchdog”, her report on Owen Paterson MP a year ago — and Boris Johnson’s initial defence of his former colleague — may be seen as having precipitated the current political turmoil.
Both Sorabji and Greenberg are taking up jobs that will test their charm and challenge their intellects. Lawyers don’t have to be boring.
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