It now looks even more likely our next Lord Chief Justice will be a woman

Front-runners’ chances scuppered because they’re too old to apply

Lady Justice Sharp

The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) has thrown a spanner in the works today, unexpectedly revealing that only those 65-years-old and younger can apply to be the next Lord Chief Justice.

Applications are now open to replace the Lord Thomas, who is set to retire this autumn. Today, the JAC posted the Lord Chief Justice person specification, which states:

Notifications of intent to apply are invited from candidates who are able to serve for at least four years before retirement.

This has really mucked up previous bench predictions. Legal affairs commentator Joshua Rozenberg put his money on Lady Justice Hallett and Sir Brian Leveson back in January. At 67-years-old, both have now been ruled out.

That said, 61-year-old Lady Justice Sharp, vice-president of the Queen’s Bench Division, is still in the running. With much of her competition now ruled out, it looks like she’s even more of a front-runner to bag the top judicial role.

Though this news may delight some, the introduction of this age limit has really stumped others. Bob Neil MP, who chairs the House of Commons’ Justice Committee, has described the criterion as “needlessly restrictive and rather arbitrary”.

He has called on the chair of the JAC to explain why it’s been included. This is Lord Kakkar, a professor of surgery at University College London who will this year also oversee a number of appointments to the Supreme Court.

The JAC has, however, already provided an explanation (screenshotted below). Rozenberg has described it as not even “remotely convincing”.

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26 Comments

Anonymous

If the winner is a lady I expect the haters will say ‘positive discrimination!’ and ‘lesbian!’, but the truth is that she will be chosen on merit and will probably have a loving heterosexual male partner, who will possibly have fathered her children.

(12)(13)
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Anonymous

They should give it to Lord Thompson – who allegedly told Lord Harley it was OK for him to wear his Harry Potter medals and badges in court

(5)(0)
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Anonymous

Not an entirely unreasonable stipulation to require 4 years service (although a silly official reason has been given).

The only 2 LCJs in modern times who have lasted less than 4 years (give or take a few days depending on when Lord Thomas retires) are Lord Phillips, who did 3 and was then moved to lead the HL/SC switchover, and Lord Trevethin, who was ‘resigned’ for political reasons.

(1)(0)
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Man

Thoroughly reasonable to expect the new person to serve for 4 years minimum. Any less and the seat would barely be warm by the time they leave.

And all the better if the post holder has a loving heterosexual male partner who has possible fathered their children.

(3)(3)
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Not Amused

I don’t care who it is, we could hardly do worse. The danger with insisting upon someone younger is the same danger we have now with these young, ministerial LCs – the job becomes a stepping stone so no one actually does it properly.

What we need is:
1) Root and branch reform of the Family Division with streamlined processes and faster process;
2) Rationalisation of the Court estate;
3) a commitment to achieving trial within 6 months of issue;
4) Courts who have functioning telephones and e-mail addresses

Get me those 4 and I will sing your praises

(10)(4)
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Travelling Gavel

Not Amused – get me the job of LC and I will gladly stay in post until my dying breath –
And as for your list; consider it done.
1) Root and branch reform of the Family Division with streamlined processes and faster process; done
2) Rationalisation of the Court estate; done
3) a commitment to achieving trial within 6 months of issue; done
4) Courts who have functioning telephones and e-mail addresses done

(0)(0)
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Just Anonymous

I can understand, in principle, the desire to appoint a candidate who can do the job for a reasonable amount of time. (Obviously, what is reasonable is up for debate.)

What I struggle with is the compulsory retirement at 70. If a judge, having reached 70, is still fully competent and wanting to continue, why should s/he be automatically turfed out?

(23)(0)
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Bumblebee

“It now looks even more likely our next Lord Chief Justice will be a woman”

I look forward to the day when the media drops this bizarre and pernicious obsession with people’s gender, race and sexuality, and the headline “Next LCJ will be a woman” seems as odd and anachronistic as “Next LCJ will be left-handed”.

(11)(1)
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Anonymous

Is this a generational thing? I really couldn’t give a fig about gender! I am 29 and couldn’t care less about gender, race or this that and the other. To me it’s about merit and efficacy.

I appreciate there is a lack of balance at the upper end of the profession but surely over time this will change?

I would hope the next LCJ is there because he or she is the right person for the job!

(9)(0)
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Righteous Duddette

The Children Act 1989 urges trials to be held within 13 weeks. That was a sensible post by NA, about rationalising the courts. Some judges in the High Court, all divisions, give their work e-mails out to the advocates, to get round the dysfunctioanality of the court staff.

(1)(0)
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Anonymous

Would the following statement make a headline?
“It now looks even more likely our next Lord Chief Justice will be a man”
No prizes for guessing.

(1)(0)
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