Lord Neuberger reveals his biggest regrets

Exclusive: Supreme Court president admits there are cases he wonders if he got right

Lord Neuberger has shared his three biggest Supreme Court regrets with Legal Cheek.

The top judge will be leaving the country’s highest court this month, and will be replaced by his former deputy Lady Hale. In an interview with features editor Katie King, Neuberger was asked what he’d do differently if he could have his five years as Supreme Court president again. He said:

One thing that I would have liked to have done, that I didn’t do, was to have sat with the court and presided over the court in Belfast and in Cardiff. As you know, a few months ago we sat in Edinburgh… and I was very, very pleased with that. Sadly I’m going to have to go retire before we sit in Belfast, which the court is due to do next spring.

Neuberger is hoping this ‘Supreme Court tour’ will continue to develop under Hale, even noting it’s “a possibility” the justices will sit in smaller cities like Bristol and Manchester. He added:

It is very important to emphasise that the Supreme Court is the United Kingdom Supreme Court, not the England Supreme Court, let alone the London Supreme Court.

The travel bug must have bitten Neuberger hard. His second regret is this: “I really enjoy going to universities and schools and if I have a regret it’s that I didn’t do more.”

In a move that we hope will delight law students across the country, former Master of the Rolls Neuberger let slip that he’d be “very happy” to give university talks about judges, the rule of law, and more. With retirement looming, let’s hope he’ll be coming to a law school near you soon!

Stepping away from the importance of getting out and about, Neuberger’s third, and perhaps most candid, regret goes to the heart of a judges’ job: giving judgments.

Oxford chemistry graduate Neuberger admitted that at times there was “a bit of a logjam” in getting judgments out. This was often down to a combination of factors. But, he added:

There were times I should and could have done more… I regret not having tried to introduce some more control over that.

When pushed on whether Neuberger has any regrets relating to specific cases and judgments, he notably told us:

Of course there are cases where I think I could have done better. I’m afraid there are even… decisions that I do wonder if I got it right. It’s not very nice once you’ve given a judgment to think, a bit later, ‘I think I may not have been right’. But that’s life, nobody gets everything absolutely right all the time.

Legal Cheek’s full interview with Neuberger will be uploaded to the site soon. In it, you’ll find out how the outgoing president dealt with the pressure surrounding his Article 50 Miller judgment, what he thinks about Hale as a successor and — the question you’ve always wanted answered — what the justices do for lunch.

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