Jenny Rowe, the first Chief Executive of the Supreme Court, has given a podcast interview to Mike Semple Piggot (who runs the highly informative UK Law Blog, Charon QC) for the College of Law, in which she gives some practical insight into what we should expect come the 1 October when the Supreme Court opens its doors. We reported here on Jenny Rowe’s short speech to the Legal Week Litigation forum earlier this month. This further interview is highly recommended listening and a transcript can also be viewed here.

First some background on the responsibilities of the Chief Executive: Ms Rowe explains that the new Supreme Court is not part of the Court Service but forms a small court service in its own right. The CEO, who acts under the direction of the President and Deputy President and has no accountability to Ministers, is statutorily responsible for running “an efficient and effective administration” to support the Justices in every way possible so that they can perform their role of deciding cases. The CEO is responsible for appointing the officers and staff of the Court and is the keeper of the Supreme Court records. Ms Rowe is also the accounting officer for the budget for the Supreme Court, which is entirely separate from the Ministry of Justice’s budget. The current estimate for the annual running costs of the Supreme Court is £14 million, inclusive of judicial salaries, which is under the original budget. 

Ms Rowe stresses that the Supreme Court’s policy will be to put as much information into the public domain as possible. Each of the three court rooms are being fitted with four cameras (which Ms Rowe does not think will result in more advocates “grandstanding”). All of the hearings will be filmed and on request made available to broadcasters. There will also be two television screens on the lower ground floor for visitors to the Court, although all members of the public are able to sit in on Court hearings. Court documents which have been lodged online and summaries of upcoming cases will be posted on the Court’s website. One of the most interesting developments is that for each judgement which the Court hands down, a press summary (of a maximum of a page and a half) will be issued and posted online: the aim is to provide “quick information” to the public and media. The Justices themselves will approve the press releases. This should be a dramatic help for lawyers at all levels and also raises an interesting question as to the status of the press releases in terms of legal precedent: can they be relied on as an accurate summary or as an interpretation guide for the full judgement?
As to the ongoing debate on who the 12th justice will be, on which we reported in an earlier post, Ms Rowe describes the new selection process which involves the establishment of a commission, chaired by Lord Phillips, the President of the Court. The three territorial judicial appointments commissions in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland nominate members for the commission and Lord Hope, the Deputy President, will also be a member. It is up to the commission to determine its own procedure, but Ms Rowe comments that posts may well be advertised as they were last year. Ms Rowe hopes that the commission will have its first meeting in “latish September”.
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