Supreme Court selection process

Supreme Court selection process for President and Justices

8 February 2019

The process of appointing some of the most senior judges in the UK begins officially today, as applications are invited from candidates to fill vacancies for the Presidency of the Supreme Court and two, possibly three, Justices of the Court.

Adverts will appear from today (8 February) encouraging applications for vacancies that will be created by the retirement of Lady Hale in January 2020, Lord Carnwath in March 2020 and Lord Wilson in May 2020.

The appointments process will be overseen by two independent selection commissions, convened by the Lord Chancellor under rules set by Parliament. The President and Justices are selected under provisions set out in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, as amended. The membership of the commissions 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 vacancies and explain the selection process, as well as to host the information packs for prospective candidates.

Those interested in applying as a Justice should note that, in the event of a serving Justice being appointed President, consideration will be given to the appointment of a third new Justice from this present competition, to take up office in January 2020. It is open to candidates to apply for both the post of the President and as a Justice.

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 visits are available to the candidates.

Applications close at midday on 1 March 2019. Once shortlisting, interviews and the required consultation exercises have taken place, it is expected that the names of those appointed will be announced by HM Government on behalf of HM The Queen by October, and the new post-holders will take up office between January 2020 and May 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 commissions (once convened by the Lord Chancellor) are:

  • Consultation with the Lord Chancellor on the positions to be advertised and the process of selection
  • Vacancies are 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 panels. 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. Candidates are informed of the outcome, and the Prime Minister's Office then makes an announcement.

2. Membership of the Selection Commission

Membership of the respective commissions for the vacancies are set out in statute, i.e. they are stipulated by Parliament and not open to change without a change in legislation.

As set out in the statute, the commission to appoint the next President of the Supreme Court is chaired by one of the non-lawyer members, and in this instance will be chaired by Mrs Nicola Gordon. The rest of the panel are a senior Justice of the Supreme Court (not the President), another senior UK judge (not a Supreme Court Justice) and representatives from the three independent judicial appointments board/commissions across the UK.

The separate 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 one of these must be a non-lawyer.

For the vacancy of President of the Supreme Court:
Mrs Nicola Gordon (Chair) Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland
Lord Burnett Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales
Lord Kakkar Judicial Appointments Commission of England and Wales
Lord Kerr Justice of the Supreme Court
Mr Lindsay Todd Judicial Appointments Commission of Northern Ireland
For the two vacancies for Justices of the Supreme Court:
Lady Hale (Chair) President of the Supreme Court
Lord Burnett Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales
Mrs Nicola Gordon Judicial Appointments Commission for Scotland
Lord Kakkar Judicial Appointments Commission for England and Wales
Mr Lindsay Todd Judicial Appointments Board for Northern Ireland

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