This is my first and most pleasant duty as the new Chief Justice of the DIFC Courts to pay tribute to my predecessor Sir Anthony Evans on the occasion of his retirement. So I want to emphasise that today’s ceremony is not so much about me as about Sir Anthony.

He was, of course, the founding father of the DIFC Courts, which we must not forget was the brainchild of the Ruler, and was established as an integral part of the formula to make the DIFC the success which it has become. But there is always a gap between conception and delivery, and Sir Anthony had to deliver the perspiration to match the Ruler’s inspiration to create the DIFC Courts from the ground up. (I mean that metaphorically of course, since the DIFC Courts were inaugurated on 25 October 2005 on the 14th Floor of the Gate Building where we began our Court business while the new Courts building was erected).

Sir Anthony had all the right qualities and instincts for this job. First, he had a great legal intellect and vast judicial experience. Second, he had a genuine interest in Dubai and its aspirations, and shared the Ruler’s vision for the development of a unique legal institution. Third, he had a great respect for the people and national legal institutions of Dubai. Fourth, he had a clear vision of how the DIFC Courts should take shape. Last, but not least, he had an energy that would shame a person half his age to enable him to carry out the formidable tasks he had set for himself.

Leveraging on those qualities, he set about his tasks in a deliberate way. First, he worked closely with the DIFC in conceptualising the shape of the DIFC Courts, both in its physical as well as its constitutional structure. Next, he set about selecting the key personnel to handle the business of the Courts, from the Judges to the Registrars. Third, he planned the development of those personnel who had no previous judicial experience on how to run a common law court by arranging for them to receive specialist education and training. Fourth, he had to oversee the drafting of the relevant rules to govern the procedures of our Courts. Fifth, he ensured that the DIFC Courts would be modern in concept and implementation by commissioning state of the art technology, regular KPI checks on the performance of the Courts and having external assessors for staff performance reviews. Sixth, he established durable relations with key stakeholders of the Courts including, in particular, DIFCA, Court users (such as the law firms) as well as our partners in the dispensation of justice, the Dubai national courts, with a view to firmly establishing the DIFC Courts as part of the Dubai judicial system. And finally, he had to ensure that the Courts ran their business in a way that inspired international confidence and enhanced the reputation of the DIFC as a unique Middle Eastern investment and business destination without parallel. And all of this he did with a grace and humour that endeared him to all who had the privilege of working with him.

All of you here are in some way our partners, and are well aware of the success he achieved in all these various tasks he had to undertake, so I need not spend a great deal of time in elaborating on his achievements. In the last five years, we have come a long way from a plan conceived on paper to an institution that commands respect both within and without Dubai for what it has promised and what it has delivered so far. We are only part of the way along the journey that Sir Anthony has started, but we are well on the way to fulfilling the dream that was behind the creation of the DIFC Courts. He has fulfilled his mandate of establishing a functioning court system; it is now up to the next generation to develop and improve that system.

It is difficult for me to show restraint in my praise and admiration for Sir Anthony’s achievements over these five years, and only his natural modesty prevents me from embarrassing him with further effusive eulogies. He has been my guide and mentor and I will always be grateful to him for actively preparing me to take his place, but I am also acutely aware of the high bar he has set for his successor. I have deliberately refrained from using the word “retirement” as I know that he still wishes to have an active working life apart from his passion for sailing. I have also refrained from using the word “goodbye” as we will still see him often in Dubai and indeed in this building although in a different capacity as Chairman of the Dubai World Tribunal.

I will, therefore, content myself with saying that all of us here are happy to join me in expressing our boundless gratitude to Sir Anthony for what he has contributed to the DIFC Courts and in wishing him and Lady Caroline all the best in the next phase of his life.

Michael Hwang
Chief Justice

16 June 2010