In June 2010, Lord Saville announced his retirement from the Supreme Court.  The  Supreme Court appointments commission re-convened to find a replacement.  Nine months later no new appointment has been  announced. At the time of Lord Saville’s retirement, we raised the question as to whether this might be “Sumption round 2”.  A blog post yesterday by veteran legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg hints that our prediction might have been right.

First of all, some background for new readers.  In March 2010 the appointment of Sir John Dyson as the twelfth justice of the court brought to an end a process which had begun with Lord Neuberger’s appointment as the Master of the Rolls in October 2009.  The appointments process was punctuated by rumours of judicial disagreements,.  First it seemed that Jonathan Sumption QC was a leading candidate but then withdrew his candidature, apparently in the face of opposition from senior judges.  It was reported that the appointments commission produced a shortlist of four names: Lady Justice Arden, and Lord Justices Maurice Kay, Wilson and Dyson.  We discussed this in our post on Sir John Dyson’s appointment and earlier posts here and here.

Following Lord Saville’s announcement, the UKSC advertised two vacancies – the second will arise when Lord Collins is required to retire in May 2011 (on reaching the age of 70).  The “Information Pack” for applicants is here. The closing date was 1 November 2010.

In December 2010, Frances Gibb reported in the Times that Mr Sumption had again applied for the Supreme Court.   Since then there has been no news.  Yesterday, Joshua Rozenberg reported his “understanding” that

the five candidates were interviewed for the two vacancies in the UK Supreme Court. They are (in alphabetical order):  Sir Maurice Kay,  Sir John Laws,  Sir Timothy Lloyd,  Jonathan Sumption OBE QC,  Sir Nicholas Wilson

He pointed out that there has been no appointment and that this had led to speculation that the Lord Chancellor, Ken Clarke, has a power to ask the UKSC appointment commission to reconsider its choice: either because he had not seen enough evidence that one of those selected is suitable or because there was evidence that the chosen candidate is not the best person “on merit”.   Joshua Rozenberg goes on to ask

What might this mean? Could it be that Sumption has been appointed and Clarke is unhappy with the appointment, perhaps because other senior judges (not those named above) don’t think it should go to someone without full-time judicial experience?”

This would be a rehash of the stories which appeared in the media prior to Lord Dyson’s appointment.   Joshua Rozenberg suggests a number of more or less implausible scenarios.   All that is certain is that the two appointments are still awaited.