Why the Delay?

With the New Year almost upon us, there is still no word of who will fill the long-standing vacancy on the Supreme Court. The twelfth seat has been empty since the court opened in October — although in fact the vacancy arose some six months ago when Lord Neuberger, to nobody’s surprise, was appointed Master of the Rolls.

We can be reasonably sure that the appointments commission has made its choice — and we know it has not chosen Jonathan Sumption QC, who made it known, rather late in the day, that he would not be interested in leapfrogging the entire High Court and Court of Appeal.

The delay is more likely to be caused by the government, which insisted on a convoluted consultation process under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 and is now having to comply with it. Either that, or the paperwork is stuck at the bottom of one of the Prime Minister’s red boxes.

When the announcement finally comes, we can expect to read it on this obscure corner of the No 10 website. But don’t hold your breath. Even though all High Court judges become knights or DBEs, and even though all members of the Court of Appeal are sworn of the Privy Council, the announcements of these honours are taking months to appear (nearly five months in the case of the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland).

Worse still, Downing Street does not seem to understand that deputy High Court judges and recorders are not entitled to be called “His (or Her) Honour”. This style is reserved for full-time circuit judges. Nor do the hold the title “Judge”. The last two Downing Street press notices announcing knighthoods for High Court judges are embarrassingly inaccurate.

As I often say, good job they’re not running the country…

  • Anyone who does know the name of the new Supreme Court justice can email me in confidence: joshua@rozenberg.net

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