Liz Truss backs a fellow northerner for Lord Chief Justice position, weeks after she barred judiciary’s favourite candidate Leveson from applying

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By Katie King on

But will her love of Sir Ernest Ryder matter after the summer Cabinet reshuffle?

Sir Ernest Ryder

It’s been reported Liz Truss has “privately promoted” a fellow northerner to become the next Lord Chief Justice, six weeks after top legal affairs commentator Joshua Rozenberg said he’s “backing” him too.

Rozenberg was the first to support 59-year-old Sir Ernest Ryder back in February. He told his loyal Facebook following Ryder’s background “is likely to appeal to the Lord Chancellor” because he was educated in Bolton and she in Leeds.

And it seems Rozenberg may well have been right on that one. According to The Times (£) this morning, Lord Chancellor Truss does fancy Ryder as the next head of the judiciary, a post which will become vacant this autumn when current Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas steps down.

So what do we know about Truss’ pick, Ryder? He’s a family law specialist who was called to the bar in 1981, took silk 16 years later and then became a judge three years after that. A Cambridge graduate and the chancellor of the University of Bolton, Ryder is also the senior president of tribunals and has a passion for court reforms.

What’s clear from Rozenberg’s post is that Ryder — “a technocrat who has several different computer systems running in his room” — doesn’t seem like much of a traditionalist. This may go some way to explaining why Truss’ support for Ryder has apparently made senior judges “livid”.

Or, perhaps this discontentment among the judiciary stems from Truss’ decision to bar 66-year-olds and above from applying to the Lord Chief Justice post. This ruled out Sir Brian Leveson, 67, who seemed to be the judiciary’s favoured candidate. Strong contender Lady Justice Hallett, also 67, was barred from applying too.

But how much does Truss’ opinion really matter in all this? It’s worth remembering she’s not on the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), which is tasked with drawing up the initial shortlist of future Lord Chief Justices.

However, as head of the JAC Lord Kakkar told the House of Lords’ Constitution Committee in March, it’s Truss who sets the parameters of the Lord Chief Justice role; the JAC then select the candidate who meets those qualities. She will also be involved at the end of the process, because she must approve the JAC’s candidate.

That is if she is still the Lord Chancellor by the time the JAC makes its decision. Truss is believed to be at risk of being booted out of the Cabinet in a summer reshuffle. This follows a long list of scuffles with the judiciary over, for example, her failure to defend judges against press attacks, which both Lord Neuberger and Lord Thomas called her out for.

A Truss-less Cabinet would, it seems, be music to our readers’ ears. A whopping 88% of our Twitter followers think she’s “a rubbish Lord Chancellor”.

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