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Selection process for Supreme Court Justice launched

Judicial vacancies

Selection process for Supreme Court Justice launched

30 October 2020

The process of appointing a new Supreme Court Justice begins officially today (Friday 30 October), as applications are invited from candidates to fill the vacancy resulting from the forthcoming retirement of Lady Black of Derwent on 10 January 2021.

Digital adverts will appear shortly encouraging applications for one of the most senior judicial appointments in the UK.

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

The Supreme Court and Judicial Committee of the Privy Council hear a wide range of very complex and high-profile legal appeals, which can have considerable impact across the United Kingdom and beyond.

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.

The selection commission welcomes applications from the widest range of applicants eligible to apply, including those who are not currently full-time judges, and particularly encourages applications from those who would increase the diversity of the Court.

All those appointed to the Court need to be people of truly exceptional intellectual and legal ability, with sound judgment and decisiveness. The selection commission is looking for candidates who can show an ability to contribute to the collegiate decision-making of the Court, a sensitivity to the needs of different communities and groups and an ability and willingness to engage in the wider representational and leadership role of a Justice, together with an appreciation of the developing nature of the constitution and law in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. 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.

The closing date for applications is midday on 20 November 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 the spring of 2021.

Support and further information for prospective candidates

  • In previous competitions, the Supreme Court has been able to host familiarisation visits for those considering applying for an appointment as a Justice. These visits are not possible at the moment given the restrictions arising from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. A confidential familiarisation telephone call, to discuss working at the Supreme Court with the Chief Executive or a Justice, are available to eligible candidates. Expressions of interest in such a conversation will be considered from people who meet the minimum statutory criteria to be a Justice of the Supreme Court and who are contemplating applying in this competition. More information is available via the following link: Familiarisation conversations for potential judicial candidates

  • A series of short podcasts, featuring interviews with serving Justices, will launch the week of 9 November on the Supreme Court website. Justices will speak about their career path and why they applied to become a Justice, as well as sharing insights into what the process felt like and what advice they would give someone thinking of applying.

  • There is a considerable amount of information on the Supreme Court website, including video recordings of cases.

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.

A detailed description of the appointments process for Justices is available on the Supreme Court website via the following link: Appointments of Justices

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.

For this competition, the selection commission comprises:

Lord Reed of Allermuir (Chair) President of the UK Supreme Court
Lord Burnett of Maldon Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales
Mrs Nicola Gordon Chair of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland
Lord Kakkar Chair of the Judicial Appointments Commission
Mr Lindsay Todd Member of the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission

3. Useful links

Judicial vacancies

4. The Right Hon Lady Black of Derwent DBE became a Justice of the Supreme Court in October 2017. Read Lady Black's biography via the following link: Biographies of the justices webpage.