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DIFC Courts tap top talent in drive for judicial excellence

DIFC Courts tap top talent in drive for judicial excellence

May 15, 2016

  • Justice Sir David Steel takes on Deputy Chief Justice role from Sir John Chadwick who has reached the statutory retirement age
  • Justice Sir Jeremy Cooke adds further international bench strength
  • Expanded roles for Emirati resident judges, H.E. Justice Omar Al Muhairi, H.E. Justice Ali Al Madhani
  • Small Claims Tribunal welcomes two new member

Dubai, United Arab Emirates; 15 May 2016: The DIFC Courts today announced a major round of promotions and appointments that will contribute significantly to judicial excellence in Dubai. The changes, which cover both national and expatriate judges, have been made to further strengthen the DIFC Courts’ ability to handle the most complex transnational commercial disputes.

With more than 350 years of combined experience spanning 34 countries, the DIFC Courts’ judicial bench has earned the trust and confidence of the international legal community. The changes announced today include the appointment of a new Deputy Chief Justice, the addition of a new international judge to the bench, and expanded roles for the Courts’ Emirati judges.

After five years of service, Justice Sir David Steel is named the new Deputy Chief Justice of the DIFC Courts. A former Judge in Charge of the Commercial Court in the High Court of London, he has particular expertise in maritime law and the commercial, banking, insurance, oil and gas, and aerospace sectors. Deputy Chief Justice Steel replaces Justice Sir John Chadwick, who is stepping down upon reaching the statutory retirement age. Justice Chadwick, who served the DIFC Courts for eight distinguished years, will retire once his current roster of cases is complete.

Justice Chadwick’s place on the DIFC Courts’ bench will be filled by Justice Sir Jeremy Cooke, a former Judge in Charge of the Commercial Court in the High Court of London. A commercial litigation specialist, Justice Cooke began his legal career in 1971 and was appointed a High Court Judge in 2001.

DIFC Courts Chief Justice Michael Hwang said: “Sir John Chadwick has been an outstanding Deputy Chief Justice and we wish him the very best in his retirement. I thank him for his service and am delighted that he will stay on to complete the cases with which he is involved. The DIFC Courts are in the fortunate position of being able to draw from a large bench of world-class judges. Over the last five years, Sir David Steel has proven himself to be an exceptional legal mind and thoroughly deserving of the key position of Deputy Chief Justice. We are also delighted to welcome Justice Cooke to the bench, whose expertise and experience will add significant additional momentum to our quest for judicial excellence.”

Deputy Chief Justice Sir David Steel said: “It has been a great honour to serve the DIFC Courts for the past five years, during which time they have emerged as one of the world’s leading commercial courts. I look forward to building on Sir John Chadwick’s legacy and to upholding the DIFC Courts’ well-earned reputation for success in commercial dispute resolution, innovation and enforcement.”

Justice Sir Jeremy Cooke added: “In 2014, I had the pleasure of giving a speech in Dubai as part of the DIFC Academy of Law’s Lecture Series. I was struck by the vibrancy of the Emirate’s legal scene and by the quality of its commercial judiciary. As I move into the next phase of my career, I am proud and excited to be joining one of the world’s leading commercial courts.”

In an associated move, two of the DIFC Courts’ Emirati judges have had their roles expanded to include broader functions both at home and abroad. H.E. Justice Omar Al Muhairi, who has completed 11 years with the organisation and is one of the committee members who established the DIFC Courts, has been promoted to Senior Resident Judge. In this new role, he will serve as the Chief Justice’s representative and spokeperson when liaising with UAE ministries and local government entities. Meanwhile, H.E. Justice Ali Al Madhani will become the principal ambassador for the DIFC Courts in matters related to Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

H.E Justice Al Muhairi said: “I would like to thank Chief Justice Michael Hwang for his trust in me and for allowing me to become his representative and spokesperson for the DIFC Courts with UAE ministries and local government entities. I look forward to supporting the DIFC Courts and to maintaining their position as a world class centre of legal excellence.”

Completing the round of organisational changes is the appointment of Ayesha Bin Kalban and Mahika Hart as full members of the Small Claim Tribunal (SCT), which typically hears cases less than AED500,000 in value. Trained lawyers, their appointments follow the completion of an immersion and familiarisation period with the SCT team.

“The DIFC Courts have become a magnet for outstanding local and international judicial talent, which in turn is helping to deliver judicial excellence in Dubai,” added Chief Justice Hwang. “As part of our work to enrich and advance the UAE legal sector, we invest significant resources in attracting, retaining and developing the very best judges and registry officials. The outstanding team we have built has been central to establishing the DIFC Courts as a world-leading centre of dispute resolution, and I congratulate everyone on their well-deserved promotions and expanded roles.”


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