Bruce, James Lewis Knight- (DNB00)

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BRUCE, Sir JAMES LEWIS KNIGHT- (1791–1866), judge, was the youngest son of John Knight of Fairlinch, Devonshire, by Margaret, daughter and afterwards heiress of William Bruce of Llanblethian, Glamorgan- shire. He was born at Barnstaple on 15 Feb. 1791, and was educated at King Edward's grammar school, Bath, and the King's school, Sherborne. He left Sherborne in 1805, and, after spending two years with a mathematical tutor, was articled to a solicitor in Lincoln's Inn Fields. His articles having expired, he was, on 21 July 1812, admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn. On 21 Nov. 1817 he was called to the bar, and for a short time went the Welsh circuit. The increase of his chancery practice soon caused him to abandon the common law bar, and he confined himself to practising in the equity courts. In Michaelmas term 1829 he was appointed a king's counsel, and on Nov. in the same year was elected a bencher of Lincoln's Inn. Upon taking silk he selected the vice-chancellor's court, where Sir Edward Sugden, afterwards Lord St. Leonards, was the leader. With him Knight had daily contests unil Sugden's appointment as lord chancellor of Ireland in 1834. In politics Knight was a conservative, and in April 1831 he was returned for Bishop's Castle, a pocket borough belonging to the Karl of Powis. His parliamentary career, however, was short, for the borough was disfranchised by the Reform Bill. In 1834 he received the honorary degree of D.C.L. from the university of Oxford. In 1835 he was one of the counsel heard at the bar of the House of Lords on behalf of the municipal corporations against the Municipal Reform Bill, and in 1851 on behalf of the deans and chapters against the Ecclesiastical Duties and Revenues Bill. In August 1837 he unsuccessfully contested the borough of Cambridge, and in September following assumed the additional surname of Bruce by royal license. Upon the abolition of the court of exchequer in equity and the transfer of its jurisdiction to the court of chancery, he was on 28 Oct. 1841 appointed by Sir Robert Peel one of the two additional vice-chancellors under 5 Vict. c. 5. He was subsequently knighted, and on 15 Jan. 1842 was sworn a member of the privy council. In Michaelmas term 1842 he undertook the further duties of chief judge in bankruptcy, and seven years later the exercise of the jurisdiction of the old court of review was entrusted to him. In 1842-3 he held the yearly office of treasurer of Lincoln's Inn, and in virtue of that office laid the foundation-stone of the new hall and library of the inn on 20 April 1843. Upon the creation of the court of appeal in chancery Lord John Russell appointed Knight-Bruce and Lord Cranworth the first lords justices on 8 Oct. 1851. In this court Knight-Bruce sat for nearly sixteen years. He died at Roehampton Priory, Surrey, on 7 Nov. 1866, within a fortnight after his retirement from the bench, which had been occasioned by the gradual failure of his sight and the shock which he had sustained by the sudden death of his wife in the previous year. He was buried in Cheriton churchyard, near Folkestone, on the 14th of the same month. At the bar he was remarkable for the rapidity with which he was always able to make himself master of the facts of any case, and for his extraordinary memory (see report of 'Hilton v. Lord Granville,' Cr. and Ph. 284, and Law Mag. and Review, xxii. 281). As a judge he showed a wonderful aptitude for business and a profound knowledge of law, and so anxious was he to shorten procedure and save time in the discussion of technicalities, that in some of his decisions, which were overruled by Lord Cottenham, he anticipated reforms which were subsequently made. His language was always terse and lucid, and his judgments, especially the earlier ones, were models of composition (see the case of 'Reynell v. Sprye,' 1 De Gex, Macnaughten, & Gordon, 660-711; of 'Thomas v. Roberts,' better known as the 'Agapemone Case,' 3 De Gex & Smale, 758-81; and of 'Burgess v. Burgess,' 3 De Gex, Manaughten, & Gordon, 896-905). He frequently sat on the judicial committee of the privy council, where his familiarity with the civil law and the foreign systems of jurisprudence was especially valuable, In the celebrated 'Gorham case,' he differed from the judgment of the majority of the court, which was pronounced by Lord Langdale, M.R., on 8 March 1850. On 20 Aug. 1812 he married Eliza, the daughter of Thomas Newte of Duvale, Devonshire, by whom he had several children. Two portraits were taken of him, by George Richmond, R.A., and Woolnoth respectively, both of which have been engraved.

[Foss (1864), ix. 151-4; Law Mag. and Rev. xxvii. 278-93; Law Journal, i. 564-5. 607-8; Solicitors' Journal. xi. 25. 53-4, 79; Law Times, xlii. 21, 48. 57, 303; Gent. Mag. 1866, new ser. ii. 681, 818, 833-5; Annual Register (1866), Chron. 218-19.]

G. F. R. B.