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In the final appeal Lord Campbell said:

No one can suppose that Lord Cottenham could be, in the remotest degree, influenced by the interest he had in this concern; but, my Lords, it is of the last importance that the maxim that no man is to be a judge in his own cause should be held sacred. And that is not to be confined to a cause in which he is a party, but applies to a cause in which he has an interest.

What does the adjective mean here? It can't be definition 1.2 'The lowest in importance or rank', which is logical, but contradicts the sacredness of the above maxim?

Source: P48, How the Law Works, Gary Slapper

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  • You haven't given sufficient context to pin down the date, but based on this I'm guessing we're talking well over 150 years ago (with a speaker who probably used forms which were somewhat old-fashioned even then). Nowadays we don't use last = utmost in that way. Jul 5 '14 at 15:33
  • @FumbleFingers Thank you for the date; I'll remember in the future.
    – NNOX Apps
    Jul 6 '14 at 8:35
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Lord Campbell means of the greatest possible importance.

OED s.v. last, adj. . . . and adv., sense #7:

Reaching its ultimate limit; attaining a degree beyond which one cannot go; utmost, extreme. Now chiefly in phr. of the last importance.

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Although sense 1.2 isn't applicable, either of the senses “1. Coming after all others in time or order; final” or “1.1. Met with or encountered after any others” applies, at least in part. Via sense 1, “last importance” means of final importance, of ultimate importance. Via sense 1.1, the sentence means that even if no other maxim applies, this one (not being a judge in one's own cause) does apply.

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