Yesterday it was announced that the Rt. Hon. Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury will be the next president of the Supreme Court when Lord Phillips steps down on 30 September 2012.
Early Life and Education
Born on 10 January 1948, David Edmond Neuberger, brother-in-law of Liberal Democrat peer and Rabbi, Julia Neuberger, was educated at Westminster School and later studied Chemistry at Christ Church, Oxford. His father, Albert Neuberger, was head of Chemical Pathology at St. Mary’s Hospital, University of London. After graduating, he began working for the merchant bank NM Rothschild & Sons, but after three years, having commented that he was “even less good at finance than science”, he decided to try a career in the law.
Early Legal Career
In 1974 Lord Neuberger was called to the Bar by Lincoln’s Inn. He enjoyed a rapid rise, taking silk in 1987 and becoming head of specialist property set, Falcon Chambers. He became a Bencher for Lincoln’s Inn in 1993 and subsequently a Recorder from 1990 until 1996.
Appointment as a Justice
Lord Neuberger was appointed a High Court judge in the Chancery Division in 1996 and was the Supervisory Chancery Judge for the Midlands, Wales and Chester and Western Circuits between 2000 and 2004. He was appointed a Lord Justice of Appeal in 2004, and his promotion to Lord of Appeal in Ordinary two years later made him the youngest law lord at age 58. In July 2009, in a move he later referred to as an “elective demotion”, Neuberger left the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords to become Master of the Rolls.
Known for his easy-going and approachable manner, Lord Neuberger is outspoken on a range of issues, not least in his criticism of the Supreme Court, which at the time of its inception he described as having been created “as a result of what appears to have been a last-minute decision over a glass of whisky”. He headed an inquiry into widening access to the Bar and in 2006-07 he served as a member of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions. He has questioned government plans to reduce legal aid and he recently spoke out against the hourly billing rates charged by lawyers and the inefficient practices this leads to. Yet, Lord Neuberger asserts that parliamentary sovereignty is absolute and remains cautious on the matter of court interference in government policy.
Lord Neuberger is married to TV producer and writer, Angela Holdsworth, and they have two sons and one daughter, all of whom are solicitors. He has been Chairman of the Schizophrenia Trust since 2003 and was Governor of the University of the Arts London between 2000 and 2010.
Appointment as President of the Supreme Court
In response to news of his appointment, Lord Neuberger commented:
“It is a great honour to have been given the opportunity to serve as the President of the UK Supreme Court and to work with the eleven other distinguished members of the Court. The UK Supreme Court, like its predecessor, the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, is rightly respected throughout the world. Together with the other members of the Court, I will do my best to ensure that it continues to play its proper role in upholding the rule of law, and applying and developing the law in a coherent and principled and practical way, appropriate for today’s world.”