Following Lord Toulson’s retirement from the Supreme Court in July 2016 and Lord Neuberger’s announcement in November 2016 that he and Lord Clarke will be retiring, the Supreme Court is now receiving applications for two new justices and a new President of the Supreme Court.

From today until 10 March 2017, the Supreme Court will be accepting applications for the above positions.  The Supreme Court website has set up a dedicated page to promote the vacancies, to explain the selection process and to encourage the broadest range of applications:

It is unprecedented for the UK’s highest court to be filling so many vacancies at once.  However, the Supreme Court is likely to see this as an opportunity to address one of its chief concerns: diversity.  As Lord Neuberger noted in his public address in November 2016, “The higher echelons of the judiciary in the United Kingdom suffer from a marked lack of diversity and here I must admit the Supreme Court does not score at all well.  We have one white woman and 10 white men, and, although two of the 11 were not privately educated, none of us come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Nonetheless, candidates will obviously be chosen on merit and the selection procedure is governed by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 (as amended by the Crime and Courts Act 2013).  For each position, vacancies are advertised, the Lord Chancellor, the First Minister of Scotland, the First Minister of Wales, the Judicial Appointments Commission in Northern Ireland and senior judges across the UK are consulted, a shortlist is drawn up and interviews are conducted.  Once the Lord Chancellor accepts a recommendation, the name is notified to the Prime Minister and HM the Queen, before the Prime Minister’s Office makes an announcement.

For the vacancy of the President of the Supreme Court, the Selection Commission will consist of:

  • Lord Kakkar (Chair of the Judicial Appointments Commission for England and Wales)
  • Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales)
  • Lord Mance (Supreme Court Justice)
  • Professor Nichola Rooney (Commissioner of the Judicial Appointments Commission for Northern Ireland)
  • Ms Deidre Fulton (member of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland)

For the two vacancies for the Justices of the Supreme Court, the Selection Commission will consist of the same individuals as above, substituting Lord Mance for Lord Neuberger.

The new justices will begin hearing cases in the new legal year in October 2017.