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Joshua Rozenberg
Wednesday 23rd March 2011
Supreme Court: runners, riders and delays

I understand that five candidates were interviewed for the two vacancies in the UK Supreme Court. They are (in alphabetical order):

Sir Maurice Kay

Sir John Laws

Sir Timothy Lloyd

Jonathan Sumption OBE QC

Sir Nicholas Wilson

All but Sumption are senior judges of the Court of Appeal. 

There has been no announcement from 10 Downing Street so far. Obviously, David Cameron has a lot on his mind at the moment. But the delay in announcing the appointments has prompted observers to conclude that Ken Clarke, the Lord Chancellor, has asked the Supreme Court's selection commission to reconsider its choice — either because he has not seen enough evidence that one of those selected is suitable or because there is evidence that the chosen candidate is not the best person "on merit".

What might this mean? Could it be that Sumption has been appointed and Clarke is unhappy with the appointment, perhaps because other senior judges (not those named above) don't think it should go to someone without full-time judicial experience?

Surely not: Clarke would presumably welcome the "diversity" implicit in the appointment of a non-judge.

So perhaps Sumption was not selected after all and Clarke thinks he should have been. Maybe Lord Phillips was in favour of Sumption, Lord Hope was equivocal and the other three members of the selection panel refused to back Phillips.

But that also seems unlikely. Surely Hope would support Phillips and surely the person on the selection commission nominated by the Judicial Appointments Commission (for England and Wales) would have backed Sumption, who's a member of the Judicial Appointments Commission himself.

Maybe Clarke hasn't blocked the appointment at all and it has been held up by the need to consult the senior judges and politicians responsible for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

I hope we find out soon. Meanwhile, I'm glad I'm not a candidate.

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March 28th, 2011
12:03 PM
Regarding the above shortlist, a fortiori your tweet that Sumption and Wilson have in fact been appointed: the SC might just as well issue a press release saying, "We only take one token woman at a time." Regarding Sumption in particular, the press release might continue: 'Following the appointment of Lord Collins, our selection of Jonathan Sumption demonstrates our determination to widen access for upper-middle-class men. But we must not be complacent. These are still men who have been legal professionals; male bankers, CEOs, hedge-fund managers should all be able to aspire one day to sit in the nation's highest court. We will not rest until every man in the land who can speak dismissively of his "puny £1.6m" a year feels that the Supreme Court truly represents him.'

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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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