Place your bets
With Lady Hale confirmed as the new president of the Supreme Court, talk has turned to who will replace her as deputy president.
You might assume Lord Sumption would be a shoo-in for the number two role. Not only has he been dubbed the brain of Britain, Sumption is the third ‘most celebrity’ justice after the president and deputy president (based on press mentions). And he wears funky ties.
The ‘omg a female president’ buzz seems to have totally overshadowed the deputy president vacancy, and the few thoughts and predictions to materialise were pretty Sumption-less. Legal affairs guru Joshua Rozenberg instead mentioned Lord Mance:
Vacancy now for @UKSupremeCourt deputy president. Lord Mance? More likely to choose someone who can succeed Lady Hale in two years’ time.
— Joshua Rozenberg (@JoshuaRozenberg) July 21, 2017
However Mance’s age will hold him back. At 74, he is fast approaching his statutory retirement date (June 2018) and Rozenberg himself conceded a younger justice would be “more likely”.
A turning point came with last week’s employment tribunal fees ruling. The court unanimously sided with trade union UNISON in its legal action against the Lord Chancellor, over a much-hated ‘fees order’ introduced by Chris Grayling.
It was Lord Reed who penned the Supreme Court’s lead judgment (video below) — one that has since attracted high praise from the lawyers of Twitter. UCL academic Steven Vaughan admitted the judgment made him cry, while trainee solicitor Sam Lear said it was one of the “most brilliant” he’d read.
The writing in Lord Reed's judgment is just beautiful. The force and the feeling behind the words palpable. Made me cry. https://t.co/K67UbdGS0P
— Dr Steven Vaughan (@lawvaughan) July 26, 2017
Lord Reed's judgment is one of the most brilliant I've read. The Lord Chancellor's argument dismantled with a Rolls Royce-like smoothness. https://t.co/zvtfmMQiZL
— Sam Lear (@SamuelLear) July 26, 2017
With compliments coming from here, there and everywhere, it wasn’t long before all eyes turned to Reed for the deputy president job. Rozenberg said today on his Facebook page: “My money’s on Lord Reed.”
James Lee, King’s College London law academic, said he thinks Reed will one day be president:
I shall predict that Lord Reed will succeed Lady Hale as the next President of the UK Supreme Court. https://t.co/5NRxjZPM8s
— James Lee (@jamessflee) July 26, 2017
One of the lesser known faces of the Supreme Court, Reed is a Scottish judge who studied at Edinburgh and is an honorary professor of law at the University of Glasgow. He has sat on the European Court of Human Rights and, aged 60, Reed is a spring chicken compared to Mance (and 68-year-old Sumption for that matter.)
The deputy president post will be considered by a panel of five including the Lord Chief Justice and current president Neuberger. A scan of the criteria shows the panel’s after “an outstanding lawyer” who is sensitive to the concerns of fellow justices and has the ability to command respect from colleagues. The salary is £215,256, the same as is paid to all justices.
An appointment is expected in September.
Watch: Lord Reed explains the Supreme Court’s decision to quash employment tribunal fees
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