Our attention has been drawn to an interesting blog on Devolution Matters by Edinburgh academic, Alan Trench.   He has recently written a short paper on “The United Kingdom’s New Supreme Court”.  He comments that it is unlikely that the court will deal to any great extent with issues about the devolution settlements as the UK arrangements “have been  remarkable for the absence of division-of-powers litigation”.  The paper also draws attention to UKSC Blog, for which many thanks.

This paper is one of a series contributed to the Queen’s University, Institute of Intergovernmental Relations “2009 Special Series on the Federal Dimensions of Reforming the Supreme Court of Canada”.  This series raises questions about the selection of Supreme Court justices in Canada and discusses the “confirmation hearing” for Justice Rothenstein.   A number of working papers are available on its website (note that although these work fine in Internet Explorer, users of Firefox have to download them to a computer to be read as they do not open in the browser).  

We draw attention to two interesting papers in the series.  First, a paper by Nadia Verrelli entitled “Reforming the SCC: Rethinking Legitimacy and the Appointment Process” argues that the appointment process in Canada “is not as arbitrary as the critics imply”.   Second, Tom Kent’s paper entitled “Supreme Court Appointments: By Parliament, Not PM; and shorter” which advocates the appointment of Supreme Court Justices by a committee of the House of Commons with various safeguards to avoid partisanship.

These debates are of considerable interest as the first “post 1 October 2009” appointment to the UK Supreme Court is in the course of being made.   The executive input into the appointments process has been reduced almost to zero and the legislature has no input at all.  This has led to what some critics has suggested is a “democratic deficit” in the process (see Kate Malleson “The effect of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 on the relationship between the Judiciary, the Executive and Parliament”, Appendix 3 to HL Select Committee on the Constitution, 6th Report of the Session, 2006-2007).   The Canadian model could provide a compromise between the US style Parliamentary confirmation hearings advocated by some politicians and present system.