In an article in today’s Times with this headline Frances Gibb reports that (unnamed) “senior” judges from the Court of Appeal oppose the much discussed appointment of Jonathan Sumption QC to the Supreme Court to fill the one remaining vacancy.  The article suggests that the judges are concerned about his lack of judicial experience as well as the “disincentive to other top names at the Bar to join the circuit or High Court”.

In his blog today, Joshua Rozenberg refers to this article under the headline “False As-Sumption?” (no comment) and reminds readers that he first drew attention to the point a month ago. 

It seems surprising if senior judges are speaking “off the record” to The Times about the selection process.  It is, of course, possible that senior Court of Appeal judges would be unhappy about to see an outsider being appointed directly to the highest court.  On the other hand, we have no doubt that other senior judges recognise the merit of direct appointments to bring diversity and wider experience to the highest court.  We make no comment on the candidature of Mr Sumption QC (or anyone else) but the debate about judicial appointments and the composition of the court is too important to be conducted by means of anonymous comments which are said to have been made by “Court of Appeal judges to their colleagues in the Supreme Court”.

The process for the selection of the new Justice is that as set out in sections 25 to 31 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, which were brought into force from 1 October 2009.  This requires that a selection commission be convened which makes a recommendation.  The Minister of Justice, Jack Straw, has confirmed (as required by schedule 8 of the Act) that any such a selection commission which comprise the President and Deputy President of the Supreme Court,  and members of the appointment bodies for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

At present, although an advertisement soliciting applications for the vanancy has been issued which states that an “ad hoc selection commission has been established”  there appears to have been no announcement regarding either the precise composition of the commission or the timing of its deliberations.

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