Hodge, Sir Henry Egar Garfield (19442009), solicitor and judge, was born on 12 January 1944 at Melrose, Park Crescent, Peterborough, the younger son and second of three children of Raymond Garfield Hodge (19101966), a bank clerk then serving as captain in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, and his wife, Ruth, née Egar (19151996). From Chigwell School, Essex, he went to Balliol College, Oxford, and with a degree in jurisprudence was admitted to the roll of solicitors in 1970. On 25 September 1971 he married Miranda Tufnell (b. 1951), daughter of Carleton John Richard Tufnell, farmer. The marriage was short-lived, and ended in divorce in 1975.
Meanwhile, after a short spell in private practice (with two pioneers of modern public law, James Goudie and Cyril Glasser), Hodge spent a year working for Justice and then, in 1972, joined the Child Poverty Action Group as its legal officer and deputy director. In this role he developed a test-case strategy by which individual social security claims could act as templates for thousands of similar cases. After an initial policy of obstruction (usually by paying the individual claim in order to avoid a judgment with wider effect), the Department of Social Security saw the good sense of the strategy and began to co-operate with it.
Hodge's interventions played a significant part in the revivification of judicial review during the 1970s: through a succession of cases he helped to make officials and tribunals accountable for unfair and unlawful decision-making. The respect he had earned was reflected in his appointment in 1977 to the lord chancellor's advisory committee on legal aid, in the following year to the supplementary benefits commission, and in 1980 to the social security advisory committee.
To describe the next phase of Hodge's career, from 1977, simply as private practice would be to mislead. With two colleagues and a bank loan, he set up one of the country's first legal aid practices, Hodge, Jones, and Allen, in Camden High Street, north London. The practice eventually throve, but not before their first legal aid fee, a £5 note which they had framed and put on the office wall, had been stolen by a client. With public funding the firm worked to a high standard for people who had otherwise no access to law or to legal representation. Hodge remained a senior partner of the firm until 1999.
On 24 November 1978 Hodge married Margaret Eve Watson, née Oppenheimer (b. 1944), daughter of Hans Alfred Oppenheimer, industrialist. She had two children by her previous marriage, to Andrew Watson, and they had two daughters, Anna and Amy. The family was a conspicuously happy one and, notwithstanding the pressure put on it by the careers of both parents (Margaret Hodge becoming prominent in both local and national politics, and eventually a junior minister in Tony Blair's and Gordon Brown's governments), Hodge found time to garden, play golf, and attend almost every Arsenal home game. He and Margaret had first met as Labour members of Islington borough council, on which Hodge served from 1974 to 1978. He had unsuccessfully contested Croydon South as the Labour candidate in February 1974.
In 1974 Hodge had also become chairman of the National Council for Civil Liberties and had helped steer it, by a combination of diplomacy and personal authority, through the crisis caused by an attempt to politicize the organization. It was under his chairmanship, and with the benefit of his earlier experience, that the organization began to move from its original stance of defending individual rights towards promoting social rights in relation to race, gender, and belief.
In 1984 Hodge was elected to the council of the Law Society, chairing or serving on several of its committees, and was appointed OBE in 1993. In 1995, however, as deputy vice-president, he was defeated in the society's presidential election by an outsider, Martin Mears, who stood as the high-street solicitors' candidate. Hodge, of all people, was stigmatized as the spokesman of the big city firms. But what seemed at the time to be the worst thing that ever happened to him turned out to be probably the best: it diverted an ostensibly orthodox career as a solicitor on to a broad new road as a judge. In 1997 he became a recorder, in 1999 a circuit judge, in 2001 the chief immigration adjudicator, and in 2004 a judge of the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court (with the conventional knighthood), retaining what became in 2005 the presidency of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal. In the last of these posts Hodge was confronted with a massive backlog of cases, and with first-instance adjudicators of mixed ability. His managerial style did not make him popular, but he cleared the backlog and sought to improve the standard of adjudication. Not all of his own decisions were welcomed by the government or the press (in such a controversial field, they could hardly be), but they all displayed his trademark attention to detail and concern with principle.
The pioneering spirit which made Hodge only the third solicitor to reach the High Court bench characterized his whole career. Tall, well-built, and good-looking, he combined an impressive presence (and a powerful motor-bike) with a gentleness of manner and a readiness to listen that won him wide respect. He met forensic setbacks without rancour. He was also a fine dancer. Having lived latterly in Richmond Crescent, Islington, he died on 18 June 2009 of leukaemia at University College Hospital, Camden, London. At his wry request, the huge gathering at his memorial meeting sang So long, it's been good to know you. Although not religious, he was buried in the churchyard of Little Massingham in Norfolk, a place he and his family loved. He was survived by his wife, Margaret, his two daughters, and his two stepchildren.
The Guardian (22 June 2009); (26 June 2009) · Daily Telegraph (23 June 2009) · The Times (24 June 2009) · The Independent (30 June 2009); (2 July 2009) · WW (2009) · personal knowledge (2013) · private information (2013) · b. cert. · m. certs. · d. cert.
photograph, 1992, Photoshot, London · group portrait, photograph, 1995, Photoshot, London · photographs, 1999, Photoshot, London · N. Strange, photographs, 2004, Photoshot, London · obituary photographs
Wealth at death
£507,294: probate, 6 Jan 2010, CGPLA Eng. & Wales