Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger talks future plans, Brexit nerves and what the justices do for lunch

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By Katie King on

Exclusive Legal Cheek interview

You can now watch Legal Cheek’s full interview with outgoing Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger.

The head honcho at the country’s highest court is approaching his statutory retirement age and will be waving goodbye to the bench in a few months time. Currently in the process of clearing out his Westminster-based office, now seemed an appropriate time to ask the top judge what he’ll miss the most about the job.

Having likened himself to a tram or train that’s moved steadily along a judicial railway for over a decade, he quips:

“I’m coming off the rails (I hope not literally!) and going into a different world. I suppose it’s coming out of one’s comfort zone, which is what I will miss.”

Though heavy with nostalgia, Neuberger is looking forward to moving on.

He doesn’t want to be loitering in the Supreme Court corridors like a ghost, and certainly won’t be watching hearings on its livestream service. This ‘clean break’ is made easier by Neuberger’s confidence in his successor, the “remarkably intelligent and humane” Lady Hale. He’s also happy with the trio of Court of Appeal judges taking up positions on the Supreme Court bench (not least because he was on the panel that selected them).

One thing he and the three newbies, Lady Justice Black, Lord Justice Briggs and Lord Justice Lloyd Jones, have in common is that all four have enjoyed spells in the Court of Appeal — the Supreme Court’s “buzzier” younger sibling. Life in the appeal courts is similar, but there is one big difference: you see much more of the same people in the Supreme Court because of the vastly smaller number of judges. Does this mean the justices are more pally? Neuberger laughs:

“That’s an interesting question. I suppose I will be a lawyer and say it depends what you mean by ‘pally’. But they see more of each other. We have lunch together, I’m very keen on that.”

Moving away from the justices’ eating arrangements, Oxford chemistry grad Neuberger also reflected on his nerves in hearing the overwhelmingly important Article 50 case. He says:

“It was just the pressure of publicity. I don’t think I lost any sleep over it — you can never be quite sure — but I was definitely a bit nervous. I didn’t realise until I started speaking that I was nervous, but when I heard my voice internally, I thought: ‘David, you’re nervous.’”

The outside-court madness (some of which is pictured below), the media attention, the overwhelming political interest in the case and the fraught public mood could have been enough to break a judge.


But, Neuberger tells us: “I can’t speak for my sub-conscious… but I can’t say [the attention] made a great deal of difference.”

Like doctors dealing with very ill children, you just have to concentrate on the job at hand; if you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be a judge, he says. But — given the public pressure — does Neuberger think Miller was a highlight in his career, or more of a lowlight? You’ll have to watch the interview to find out.


Lord Neuberger reveals his biggest regrets [Legal Cheek]

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