Supreme Court selection process

Supreme Court Judicial selection process

Selection process for Supreme Court Justice launched

30 April 2020

The process of appointing a new Supreme Court Justice begins officially today, as applications are invited from candidates to fill the vacancy resulting from the forthcoming retirement of Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore in September 2020.

Digital adverts will appear shortly encouraging applications for one of the most senior judicial appointments in the UK. The Supreme Court is required by statute to have judges with a knowledge of, and experience of practice in, the law of each part of the United Kingdom. Since Lord Kerr is the only Justice with knowledge of and experience of practice in the law of Northern Ireland, the commission will be looking to recommend for appointment someone who meets this requirement.

The appointments process will be overseen by an independent selection commission, convened by the Lord Chancellor under rules set by Parliament. The Justice will be selected under provisions set out in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, as amended. The membership of the commission is prescribed in the statute and in the Supreme Court (Judicial Appointments) Regulations 2013.

A dedicated section of the Supreme Court website has been set up (Judicial vacancies) to promote the vacancy and explain the selection process, as well as to host the information packs for prospective candidates.

Applications are sought from the widest range of candidates eligible to apply, including those who are not currently full-time judges, and particularly those who will increase the diversity of the Court. Familiarisation calls are available to the eligible candidates.

Applications close at midday on 21 May 2020. Once shortlisting, interviews and the required consultation exercises have taken place, the announcement of the name of the appointee is made by HM Government on behalf of HM Queen with a view to the new post-holder taking up office in October 2020.

Notes to editors

1. The process

Much of the selection process is set out in statute: the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 (as amended by the Crime and Courts Act 2013).

In short, the steps undertaken by the independent selection commission (once convened by the Lord Chancellor) are:

  • Consultation with the Lord Chancellor on the position to be advertised and the process of selection
  • The vacancy is advertised, with candidates invited to submit a personal statement, examples of work and details of independent assessors. The basic eligibility criteria are set by Parliament.
  • The statute also requires that the Lord Chancellor, the First Minister of Scotland, the First Minister of Wales, the Judicial Appointments Commission in Northern Ireland and senior judges across the UK are consulted as part of the selection process.
  • Candidates are shortlisted and interviewed by the panel. Under changes introduced by the Crime and Courts Act 2013, where two candidates are deemed to be of equal merit, the commission can give preference to one candidate over the other for the purpose of increasing diversity within the Court.
  • After interviews, a report is sent to the Lord Chancellor for his consideration. There is another round of consultation with the senior politicians and judges. The Lord Chancellor then accepts the recommendation(s), or can reject it, or ask the commission to reconsider.
  • When the Lord Chancellor accepts a recommendation, the name is notified to the Prime Minister and HM The Queen. The candidate is informed of the outcome, and the Prime Minister's Office then makes an announcement.

2. Membership of the Selection Commission

Membership of the commission for the vacancy is set out in statute, i.e. it is stipulated by Parliament and not open to change without a change in legislation.

The commission for the vacancies for Justices of the Supreme Court is chaired by the President of the Supreme Court. Another senior UK judge (not a Supreme Court Justice), and representatives from each of the three independent judicial appointments board/commissions across the UK, form the rest of the panel. By law, at least two of these must be a non-lawyer.

Membership of the selection commission:
Lord Reed President of the Supreme Court
Sir Declan Morgan Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland
Mrs Nicola Gordon Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland (non-lawyer)
Lord Kakkar Judicial Appointments Commission for England and Wales (non-lawyer)
Mr Lindsay Todd Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission (non-lawyer)

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