All Change at the Supreme Court

This blog was contributed by Charlotte Crilly, Teaching Fellow for Undergraduate Laws.

New Supreme Court appointments

Changes are on the way at the UK’s highest judicial body, the Supreme Court. A new President of the Supreme Court was appointed at the end of July, along with three other new Supreme Court Justices. The appointments are

  • Lord Reed as the next President. He will take office on 11th January 2020, when the current President Lady Hale retires. Lord Reed is a Scottish judge who has sat on the Supreme Court since 2012, and has been Deputy President for the last year.
  • Lord Justice Hamblen, Lord Justice Leggatt and Professor Andrew Burrows as new Justices. They will join the Court on 13 January, 21 April and 2 June 2020 respectively. Lord Justices Hamblen and Leggatt are judges in the Court of Appeal, while Professor Burrows is a professor of law at Oxford University.

The UK Supreme Court was created by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. The Court sits as the final appeal court for most cases in the UK (other than criminal cases in Scotland), and plays a central role in the development of the law. The President is the head of the Supreme Court and occupies the most senior judicial position in the UK.

One consequence of these new appointments is that the gender balance of the Court will worsen. There are currently three women among the 12 Justices. When Lady Hale retires as President, there will be two – Lady Black and Lady Arden.

Who is the new President?

As well as sitting on the Supreme Court and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Lord Reed is an ad hoc judge at the European Court of Human Rights, and a Non-Permanent Judge of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.

You may remember Lord Reed for his powerful judgment in the high- profile case R (on the application of Unison) v Lord Chancellor [2017] UKSC 51 in July 2017, which held that high employment tribunal fees impeded access to justice and were unlawful (see blog post ‘The UK Supreme Court case of R (on the application of Unison) v Lord Chancellor’, 14 March 2018, at   Lord Reed also notably dissented from the majority judgment in the “Brexit case” (R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2017] UKSC 5). He did not agree with the majority decision that parliament’s approval was needed to begin the UK’s departure from the EU.

Lady Hale has previously praised Lord Reed for “developing the common law and championing the rule of law and access to justice”. Lord Reed himself said of his appointment

“As president, I will continue to champion the rule of law, alongside promoting public understanding of the role of the judiciary and maintaining the high regard in which the court is held around the world.”

The appointment of a new Supreme Court President is an important moment for the English legal system. It will be interesting to see the future development of the Supreme Court under the leadership of Lord Reed.

Find out more

Do you want to find out more about the Supreme Court and how the court system works?

For students on the University of London UG Laws programmes we are running a London Study Support Event for Legal System and Method (LSM) in November. During this course I’ll be explaining how the court hierarchy works, the role and function of different courts including the Supreme Court, and how the role of the courts fits with other ways of resolving disputes.

The LSM study support sessions will cover other essential background to your study of the legal system too, including the features of common law systems and sources and classifications of law. You’ll also learn the fundamentals of legal method and get a firm grasp on the concepts of judicial precedent and statutory interpretation, which will be crucial throughout your studies.

All sessions will be interactive with plenty of opportunity to take part in group work activities, presentations and debates. You’ll have the chance to engage with your fellow students, put forward your own ideas, and to ask me lots of questions!

Charlotte Crilly picture_LSM

I’m a Teaching Fellow at the University of London, an experienced legal practitioner and tutor, with many years’ teaching experience and close involvement with developing learning materials on the LSM module. I’m a qualified solicitor of over 20 years (though not practising now), and have a real passion for passing my knowledge on to my students. I look forward to meeting as many University of London students as possible in November on the LSM Study Support Event. Full details on the VLE.


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