The announcement contains a biography of Sir John. He was born in Wales in 1947. Called to the Bar by Gray's Inn in 1969. Queen's Counsel 1984. Judge of the High Court 1996 and was a Presiding Judge of the Wales and Chester Circuit from 1998-2001 after which he took charge of the Commercial Court (part of the High Court's structure). Appointed Lord Justice of Appeal 2003 and Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales 2003 to 2006. Vice President of the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court 2008 to October 2011 and thereafter President of the QBD.
attracted a certain amount of media comment before the official announcement - e.g. Joshua Rozenberg in The Guardian 15th July.
Since the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 [the CRA 2005], the Lord Chief Justice is President of the Courts of England and Wales and is also Head of the the Judiciary of England and Wales [CRA 2005 s.7]. As President of the Courts he will (a) represent the views of the judiciary of England and Wales to Parliament, to the Lord Chancellor and to Ministers of the Crown generally; (b) maintain appropriate arrangements for the welfare, training and guidance of the judiciary of England and Wales within the resources made available by the Lord Chancellor; (c) maintain appropriate arrangements for the deployment of the judiciary of England and Wales and the allocation of work within courts.
The President of the Courts of England and Wales is president of the following courts and is entitled to sit in any of them: the Court of Appeal, the High Court, the Crown Court, the county court* and the magistrates' courts. In practice, it would be rare for the Lord Chief Justice to sit other than in the Court of Appeal where his attention is required for the most serious and difficult cases. The office also carries huge administrative burdens.
Sir John will be the 18th person to hold this office since the great legal reforms of 1875 when many separate courts merged to form the High Court of Justice - Wikipedia. I think it is correct to say that he is only the second since 1875 to have been born in Wales. The other being Alfred Lawrence (1st Baron Trevithin who served 1921-22).
The CRA 2005 is not entirely a happy reform. Prior to the implementation of the Act, it was the Lord Chancellor who was Head of the Judiciary. An interesting article about this appeared recently on the Constitutional Law Group Blog (26th June) - Does the Lord Chancellor really exist. Detailed discussion of the reform may be read at the Select Committee on the Constitution 6th Report (2007). At the end of January, the present Lord Chief Justice spoke about his role to the House of Lords Constitution Committee (HERE).
The CRA 2005 created the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom as a replacement for the House of Lords (strictly the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords). This reform emphasised the separation of the judicial power from the legislative power. The Supreme Court has its own President, Lord Neuberger, who took part in the selection procedure for the new Lord Chief Justice.
See also Week Woman - Our new Lord Chief Justice: a barrister's perspective
Note* - Currently there are County Courts but there will be a single County Court when the Crime and Courts Act 2013 is fully implemented.
Syr John Thomas wedi ei benodi Arglwydd Brif Ustus Cymru a Lloegr a bydd yn cychwyn y swydd ar 1 Hydref, 2013