Robert Alderson Wright, Baron Wright, GCMG, PC, FBA (15 October 1869 – 27 June 1964) was a British judge.
Early life and career
Born in South Shields, Wright was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took a First and later held a prize fellowship. He was called to the bar in 1900 by the Inner Temple and practiced at the commercial bar, having joined the chambers of Thomas Edward Scrutton. He also lectured on industrial law at the London School of Economics. He took silk in 1917.
At the 1923 General election, he stood as the Liberal candidate in the Darlington constituency. The Liberals, who had not contested the seat at the previous election, were not expected to win and he came last. He did not stand for Parliament again.
In 1925, Wright was appointed to the High Court (King's Bench Division) as a judge, receiving the customary knighthood. On 11 April 1932, he was appointed Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and was created additionally a life peer with the title Baron Wright, of Durley in the County of Wiltshire. His translation from the High Court directly to the House of Lords was unusual, and was masterminded by the Lord Chancellor, the Viscount Sankey. However, he resigned as Lord of Appeal in 1935. becoming instead Master of the Rolls, a post he held until 1937, when he was made Lord of Appeal in Ordinary again. He retired in 1947, and was appointed GCMG in 1948.
In 1945 he was the Chairman of the United Nations War Crimes Commission.
As a trial judge
- Rex v Wallace  23 Cr App R 32, A famous murder case, the verdict being overturned on appeal.
- R v Kylsant & Otrs, known as the Royal Mail Case.
As an appellate judge
- Hillas & Co v Arcos  UKHL 2
- The Liesbosch v The Edison (1933) ‘The law cannot take account of everything that follows a wrongful act’
- Lindsey County Council v Marshall (1936)
- Wilsons and Clyde Coal Company v English (1937) give due regard to the actual conditions under which men work in a factory or mine, at the long hours and the fatigue, to the slackening of attention which naturally comes from constant repetition of the same operation, to the noise and confusion in which the man works, to his preoccupation in what he is actually doing at the cost perhaps of some inattention to his own safety.
- Grant v Australian Knitting Mills  AC 85
- With v O’Flanagan  Ch 575
- Attorney-General for Canada v Attorney-General for Ontario (1937), where a panel chaired by Lord Atkin struck down the Canadian New Deal, including the federal social security system and the minimum wage, as he later admitted, Wright dissented. (At that time dissents could not be recorded publicly.) Canada then abandoned appeals to London.
- Spense v Crawford (1939)
- Lowry v Consolidated African Selection Trust Ltd  AC 648, directors' duty to get best price for shares
- Southern Foundries (1926) Ltd v Shirlaw  AC 701
- Luxor (Eastborne) Ltd v Cooper (1940) ‘the duty of the court is to construe such documents fairly and broadly, without being too astute or subtle in finding defects’
- Liversidge v Anderson (1941), while Atkin dissented over the suspension of habeas corpus.
- Joseph Constantine SS Line Ltd v Imperial Smelting Corp (1941)
- Crofter Hand Woven Harris Tweed Co v Veitch  AC 435, a famous statement that workers have the right to strike in support of their interests and to enagage in collective bargaining.
- Muir v. Glasgow Corporation, in which he helped clarify the principle of negligence by saying that a duty of care was only breached if somebody did something which was "obviously and inherently dangerous": as the case revolved around a tea-urn, he made the amusing remark that "to introduce a savage animal such as a lion or tiger would be obviously and inherently dangerous, but not a tea-urn"
- Fibrosa Spolka Akcyjna v Fairbairn Lawson Combe Barbour Ltd  AC 32, 61, recognising the basis of unjust enrichment. "It is clear that any civilised system of law is bound to provide remedies for cases of what has been called unjust enrichment or unjust benefit, that is to prevent a man from retaining the money of or some benefit derived from another which it is against conscience that he should keep."
- Joyce v DPP  AC 347, the appeal of William Joyce, aka Lord Haw-Haw, against his conviction of Adherence to the King's enemies without the realm under the Treason Act 1351.
- N Duxbury, 'Lord Wright and Innovative Traditionalism' (2009) 59 University of Toronto Law Journal 265-340.