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It seemed sadly fitting that Lord Bingham should die on September 11 — and not just because that date commemorates the greatest contemporary challenge to the rule of law, the principle that Bingham expounded and defended above all. 

It was also the day on which Jews were reading the passage, almost at the end of the Hebrew Bible, in which another great law-giver is told by God that he will view the promised land from on high but die without entering it. Bingham's promised land was the Supreme Court of the UK — though he was never to enter it except as a visitor, looking down from the gallery above.

Unlike Moses, Bingham never lost his temper in public. He was denied his rightful place in the new court only because he had already reached the compulsory retirement age of 75 when it opened 12 months ago. If its launch had not been delayed by a year, Bingham would have become the first president of the court that he, above all, had urged as a replacement for the House of Lords appellate committee.

"My own view," he told me in 2005, "is that in 25 years everyone will think it astonishing that we should have endured, until now, with our top court formally constituted as a committee of one house of the legislature."

But it was as the senior judge of that top court-from 2000 to 2008 — that Bingham made his greatest contribution to English jurisprudence. He took up the post just four months before Labour brought into force the Human Rights Act, a reform he had publicly supported as far back as 1993. 

The choice of Bingham as senior law lord was part of an inspired three-way move by Lord Irvine, the last Lord Chancellor with power to make such appointments. Bingham had been an impressive Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, although criminal law was not the area best suited to his talents and it was rumoured in 2000 that he was thinking of retiring early. If Irvine had not intervened and the UK's highest court had continued to select its senior member on the principle of Buggins' turn, the law lords would have been led by judges who were responsible for the Pinochet debacle — the lowest moment in the court's 133-year history.

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