And Sumption comes third in analysis of newspaper articles citing top justices
Lord Neuberger has been named as the most “celebrity” judge on the Supreme Court bench, after it was revealed that he has racked up more than five times as many mentions in the press than some of his colleagues.
Research from the University of East Anglia’s Dr Chris Hanretty has shown that — despite being a firm law student favourite — Lady Hale has been pipped to the post. She has been mentioned in about 450 articles in UK national newspapers since 1 January 2014, about 100 less than Neuberger. Way behind in third place is Lord Sumption on about 200, and all the other justices scored around the 100 mark.
Number of articles featuring UKSC justices
It’s perhaps unsurprising that Neuberger and Hale came in at first and second place respectively. Oxford educated Neuberger holds the most senior position in the Supreme Court and is often viewed as its figurehead, while Hale — the only female on the bench — holds the second. As Hanretty sensibly explained:
[T]hese differences in coverage may simply reflect the fact that the President and Deputy President of the court write a disproportionate number of leading judgments. If journalists decide first to report on cases, and mention the identity only of the author of the leading opinion, then this kind of pattern might emerge.
Sumption — who snapped up third place — is no more senior than his nine remaining colleagues, yet managed to scoop about double the number of mentions. Legal Cheek suspects that he was able to rack up this extra publicity because of his widely reported outspoken views. In a profession that is becoming increasingly concerned about diversity and social mobility, Sumption’s controversial views on women and ethnic minorities have not been taken lightly — and make for a good story.
Rank aside, according to Hanretty the celeb status enjoyed by Neuberger and co is “modest” — compared with the highly politicised system enjoyed by the US Supreme Court anyway. Maybe, but that doesn’t make them any less popular with law students.