Douglas Bain, Roderick Paisley, Andrew Simpson and Nikola Tait (eds), Northern Lights: Essays in Private Law in Memory of David Carey Miller

Published date01 September 2020
Date01 September 2020

“I want David Carey Miller to adopt me as his grand-daughter”. So spoke a course evaluation form for a Baltimore/Maryland Summer School programme organised by the late Professor Carey Miller, as recounted in Greg Gordon's entertaining and poignant eulogy which opens this volume of essays in Carey Miller's honour. One always hopes to derive a flavour of the honouree from the anecdotes in a festschrift and this volume does not disappoint. In addition to Professor Gordon's eulogy, the book is peppered with stories of a kind, warm-hearted lawyer whose principal interest (far more than the law of corporeal moveables or South African land law) was other people. Of particular note is the conclusion of Malcolm Combe's chapter which recounts invaluable professional and pastoral support provided by Professor Carey Miller.

Turning to the substance of this book, as expected from the title, all of the essays deal with private law and there is an unsurprising focus on property law from the majority of contributions. However, under that broad umbrella a number of distinct themes can be perceived.

As a South African lawyer who spent the majority of his life in Scotland, it is no surprise that Professor Carey Miller was a firm proponent of comparative legal study. This torch is picked up by a number of contributors. John Lovett provides a fascinating account of the different results reached in the Louisiana and New York courts dealing with the same fundamental issue: recovery of a number of eight-track demo tapes recorded by the rhythm-and-blues pianist Professor Longhair. Lovett, adopting a case with uniquely interesting facts, demonstrates the extent to which the lens through which we view a legal problem can radically change the results of a dispute. Roddy Paisley's expansive essay on the doctrine of partial ademption, on the other hand, considers the development of the doctrine from Roman sources, through Roman-Dutch jurisprudence to modern Scots law, demonstrating that the same issues can vex communities that span both nations and millennia. This conclusion remains true in more mundane, day-to-day legal situations as well. Anyone who has appeared in the Edinburgh heritable court will be familiar with the requirements for fairness discussed by Anne Pope in her essay on South African eviction law, even if the constitutional context is understandably different.

A number of contributors use their chapters as an opportunity to consider valuable practical reform to Scots...

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