In Memoriam - Sir Michael Kerr - (SAR) 2002 - 1
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Michael Kerr was born in Berlin on 1st March 1921; and he died in London on 14th April 2002, aged 81. In England, he was a great advocate, judge and arbitrator; but none of these describe the man. At the Commercial Bar, he was regarded as one of the great advocates of his time; and as a High Court Judge, both in the Commercial Court and the Court of Appeal, he combined a thorough knowledge of the law with a strong sense of practical common-sense. It is impossible to comment on the development over the last forty years of English commercial law (including arbitration) without studying myriad cases he argued as counsel or decided as judge. As an English arbitrator practising after his retirement from the bench, with a gift for comparative law, language and culture, he was outstanding. He was a lawyer’s lawyer; and he was a lawyer who understood international trade and who was in turn understood by merchants. Such a description omits his contribution to law reform as the Chairman of the Law Commission; his work on the English Arbitration Act 1975 (enacting the 1958 New York Convention) and the 1982 Act enacting the Brussels Convention, the most important legislation for English civil procedure ever enacted until the recent Woolf reforms; and above all his successful efforts to recreate the London Court of International Arbitration as a major arbitral institution. We shall not see his like again in England: his gifts were unique and his experience immense. However, even this does not sufficiently describe the man.