Revamping the Court of Appeal

The FIA has unveiled a number or reforms for the International Court of Appeal which it is hoped will change the perception that exists in some quarters of the sport that it is not an independent body. The FIA argues that the court is independent but critics have argued that there have been too many cases in which the same judges have appeared and that in order to create more credibility there needs to be change. The FIA appears to have accepted this and the new list of judges for 2005 and 2006 features a number of new names. Having said that the list also includes a number of the same old names and it is up to the court to prove that this is more than just window-dressing. This will obviosuly take time but the signs are that the FIA is taking the process seriously.

The new rules for the court include an increase in the number of judges to 18. The court will henceforth elect its own secretary-general and will therefore not have an FIA appointee running the show. The courts will be open to the media. The new rules include an undertaking that members must "act with full independence and objectivity, to respect the application of these rules, and to preserve the independence of the ICA. Each member must be and remain independent of the parties. All members are obliged to reveal immediately any circumstance likely to compromise their independence in respect of one or more of the parties. A member shall spontaneously disqualify himself/herself from participating in a hearing which involves, as one of the parties, a structure to which he/she belongs or in which a member of the law firm to which he/she belongs exercises an advisory activity or takes part in its working in any capacity whatsoever. Members and peputy members shall sign a formal undertaking to respect the integrity and independence of the ICA both during and after their respective terms of office."

In addition to this there will be an annual Congress of the ICA at which all the members of the court will review the functioning of the court, and consider any proposed amendments to the rules.

The secretary-general, who will be elected by the congress every four years, will convene the hearings and select the judges in each case. There will also be a legal counsel appointed by the congress who will verify the regularity of the cases and ensure that the rights of all the parties are duly respected.

The new members of the court this year are Americans John Cassidy and Stephen Braga, who are partners in the legal firm Baker Botts, which is run by James Baker, a former White House chief of staff with Ronald Reagan, secretary of the treasury between 1985 and 1988 and George Bush Sr's secretary of state. Cassidy is one of the principal legal advisors to NASCAR and the International Speedway Corporation. In addition Britain has changed its representation to include Anthony Scrivener QC and Edwin Glasgow QC.

Scrivener, 70, was part of the legal team that freed the "Guildford Four," jailed wrongly for two pub bombings in 1975. More recently he has been chairman of the Bar in England and was asked to be part of the defence team in Saddam Hussein's trial.

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