Tuesday 26 February 2013

Appointments to the Supreme Court of the UK

Updated 27th February - link to other blogs and some of the 'tweets' on the appointments system

The appointments of three Justices of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom have been announced - Number 10 and see Lord Neuberger's (President of the Supreme Court) announcement.

"The Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of The Right Honourable Lord Justice Toulson, The Right Honourable Lord Justice Hughes and Lord Hodge as Justices of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. This fills the three vacancies arising from Lord Dyson’s appointment as Master of the Rolls and the retirements of Lord Walker and Lord Hope."

Lord Walker retires in March and Lord Hope in June.

Once the changes have taken place, the make up of the Supreme Court will be: Lord Neuberger (President), Lady Hale, Lords Mance, Kerr, Clarke, Wilson, Sumption, Reed, Carnwath, Toulson, Hughes and Hodge.  Biographies of the Justices are available.

The appointments process
is set out in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 Part 3.   See the advertisement - Selection Commission.

There was a view that another female justice should be appointed on this occasion so as to improve the court's 'diversity.'  The 2005 Act s.27 stipulates that selection must be on merit.  Also, in making selections, the commission must ensure that between them the judges will have knowledge of, and experience of practice in, the law of each part of the United Kingdom.  Lord Hodge is a Scottish Judge and will, in that respect, replace Lord Hope.  The commission must have regard to any guidance given by the Lord Chancellor as to matters to be taken into account in making a selection.

There is a strongly felt view that the UK is out of step with the rest of the world regarding female appointees to the senior judiciary - see The Guardian 21st February for the views of Lady Hale and read her Kutton Menon Memorial Lecture 21st February.   It may yet be that England and Wales will get its first female appointee as Lord Chief Justice upon the retirement of Lord Judge.  Time will tell.

The United Kingdom appointments process does not have anything like the confirmation hearings which, in the USA, receive considerable publicity.  Such hearings test the beliefs of nominees on a whole range of issues.  In support of the need for such hearings in the USA is the fact that the Supreme Court of the USA has a key role in testing the constitutionality of Acts of Congress.  There is no such power in the UK where the courts operate within the framework of law permitted by Parliament.

Further post - Legal Week 26th February - Three new Supreme Court Justices appointed 

For a post critical of the appointments process see UK Human Rights blog - Attack of the clones: Supreme Court keeps its white male first eleven

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