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Joshua Rozenberg
Wednesday 1st December 2010
New 'Sumption

I hear that Jonathan Sumption QC is, once again, in line for appointment as a Justice of the Supreme Court. Rumours swirling around the Bar say that solicitors enquiring about instructing him next year have been told that he may not be available.

My assumption (sorry) is that he would not have applied for one of the two expected vacancies on the court unless he had been told that he was likely to be appointed.

He applied last autumn and then announced that he had withdrawn his application. Some appeal judges resented the idea that someone who had not put in the years as a judge in the High Court and the Court of Appeal could be promoted over their heads.

Others said that Sumption's lack of judicial experience would not be a disadvantage in an appellate court. They said the court would benefit from his unquestioned brilliance and industry.

It is more than 60 years since anyone has been appointed direct from the Bar to the UK's highest court.

Update: I see that Frances Gibb posted a similar story on her own blog a few hours after mine appeared. So it must be true.

Frances speculates that another woman might be appointed to the Supreme Court. Though I admire both Lady Justice Arden and Lady Justice Hallett, I don't think either of them will get one of the vacancies.

Lady Justice Hallett, as Frances suggests, would be a candidate for Lord Chief Justice next time round, though there are other judges with a stronger claim to succeed Lord Judge.

I don't think Lord Neuberger, the current Master of the Rolls, would want to be Lord Chief Justice. But president of the Supreme Court might be an offer he couldn't refuse.

Finally, I am assured that Sir John Dyson -- the only member of the Supreme Court without a peerage -- is to receive the courtesy title of "Lord". I have been predicting this for years but I still don't know when the announcement will be made.

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Robin Towns
December 2nd, 2010
8:12 AM
Lord Radcliffe was the last person to be appointed direct to the House of Lords (now the Supreme Court) from the Bar in 1949. Incidentally he was also the youngest person (at aged 50) to be appointed to the highest court direct from the Bar.

Anthony Lenaghan
December 1st, 2010
6:12 PM
Who was the last such direct appointment, sir?

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About Joshua Rozenberg

Joshua Rozenberg is an independent legal commentator who presents Law in Action on BBC Radio 4.

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