Professional information

  • 2015-20: Commissioner, Scottish Law Commission
  • 2016: FRSE
  • 2005: QC
  • 2000-present: Honorary Professor, Edinburgh Law School
  • 1993-99: Regius Professor of Civil Law, Cambridge University and Fellow, Christ’s College, Cambridge
  • 1992: Called to Bar
Professional experience

David Johnston has appeared in courts at all levels, as well as arbitrations and disciplinary tribunals. He acts on behalf of individuals as well as corporations, public bodies and government.

Notable cases

David is best known for his work in public law. He also works in commercial law and, within the area of professional liability, has particular experience in relation to prescription.

Public and administrative law

  • References to the Supreme Court of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation)(Scotland) Bill and the Europen Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill [2021] UKSC 42: Whether legislation was within the powers of the Scottish Parliament
  • Anwar v Advocate General for Scotland [2021] UKSC 44: Whether European law requires employment tribunals to have power to grant warrant for diligence on the dependence
  • Cherry v Advocate General for Scotland [2019] CSIH 49; [2019] CSOH 70: Lawfulness of prorogation of UK Parliament
  • Wightman v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2018] CSIH 18 & 62; [2018] CSOH 8 & 61: Revocability of the UK’s notification to withdraw from the EU
  • Perry v Serious and Organized Crime Agency [2012] UKSC 35: Whether UK has extra-territorial jurisdiction to recover proceeds of crime
  • Eba v Advocate General for Scotland [2011] UKSC 29: Scope of the court’s supervisory jurisdiction over decisions of the Upper Tribunal
  • Principal Reporter v K [2010] UKSC 56: Rights of unmarried fathers to participate in children’s hearings


  • Takeover Panel v King [2018] CSIH 30: Ordaining shareholder to make a mandatory offer to acquire all shares in a company not already controlled by him
  • Spread Trustee Co v Hutcheson [2011] UKPC 13: Whether in the law of Guernsey trustees can validly exclude liability for gross negligence

Professional liability and regulation

  • Kidd v Lime Rock Management LLP [2020] CSOH 94 (on appeal): Damages claim for breach of fiduciary duty etc
  • Takeover Panel v King Panel Statement 2019/16: Disciplinary hearing before Takeover Panel Hearings Committee
  • Gordon’s Trustees v Campbell Riddell Breeze Paterson LLP [2017] UKSC 75: Prescription and solicitors’ negligence
Select publications


  • Prescription and Limitation 2nd edn, 2012
  • Roman Law in Context 2nd edn, 2022

Selected articles

  • ‘Fiduciary principles in Roman Law’, in E. Criddle, P. Miller and R. Sittkoff (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Fiduciary Law (2019), 505-23
  • Res merae facultatis: the decent obscurity of a learned language?’: in D. Bain et al. (eds), Northern Lights: Studies in Private Law in Memory of Professor David Carey Miller (2018), 141-52
  • ‘Auctor in rem suam: Roman remains in Scotland’, in A. Steven et al. (eds), Nothing so Practical as a Good Theory: Festschrift for George Gretton (2017), 78-87