The Supreme Court hosted the president of the recently-formed U.K. Supreme Court, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, Wednesday. It was part of a reciprocal arrangement, as three U.S. justices attended the opening of the U.K. court back in October. Phillips had apparently been told to drop by any time he was in Washington, according to the Supreme Court’s public information office. He met with the justices in addition to attending Wednesday’s argument. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. acknowledged Phillips’ presence in the courtroom before the argument began.
It was probably a good thing Phillips wasn’t in town for Tuesday’s gun rights argument (McDonald v. Chicago), as there might have been an awkward moment when the lawyer for gun rights advocates, Alan Gura, wasn’t exactly complimentary about British society:
It’s true that our friends overseas who have more or less civilized, free societies don’t respect rights to the same level that we do. For example, England, which is a free society, has a monarchy. They have hereditary lords in parliament. They don’t have First Amendment protection.
For the record: Lord Phillips is not a hereditary peer, so he probably wouldn’t have minded that part. Furthermore, the current Labour government would like to axe all hereditary peers (not literally) if it can win another election.
The justices certainly made Phillips feel at home during the argument about foreign sovereign immunity (Samantar v. Yousuf). Justice Anthony Kennedy even made a reference to a House of Lords opinion.