It’s official: We now have our first ever female Supreme Court president

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By Katie King on

Lady Hale hopes to see more female justices in the coming years

Lady Hale is now, officially, the first ever female president of the Supreme Court. In her words, it’s a “historic day for the court”.

Deputy president Lord Mance, who alongside Hale was sworn in at a charming courtroom one ceremony today, noted: “Hale’s swearing in ceremony is a first in many ways.”

“She becomes our first female president, indeed, the first female to head the UK’s highest court in any of its manifestations,” Mance said. He then described his new boss as a “tireless promoter of women and other underrepresented groups in the judiciary”.

Both Hale and Mance took their judicial oath, which is etched on the glass doors of the Westminster court, before being handed a letters patent (picture embedded below). There was laughter in the courtroom as Hale, who can’t be much more than 5ft, struggled under the weight of her letters patent, and almost dropped it.

Tomorrow (Monday 2 October) at 10am a special ceremony will be held at the UK Supreme Court, swearing-in the new President (Lady Hale), Deputy President (Lord Mance) and three new Justices (Lady Black, Lord Lloyd-Jones and Lord Briggs). During the swearing-in ceremony each justice will be formally handed a grand ‘letters patent’. The letters patent, which are in these red boxes, are ornate handwritten scrolls issued under royal prerogative. They give the holder the authority to conduct the function or office in the name of the Sovereign, in this case to serve as a Justice of the Supreme Court. This image shows the boxes, ready for tomorrow (complete with post-it label tags)! • #behindthescenes #newlegalyear #swearinginceremony #swearingin #judges #justices #law #supremecourt #uksupremecourt

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The ceremony — which was attended by the likes of the head of the Judicial Appointments Commission Lord Kakkar, Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC and the justices’ family and friends — then turned to the court’s newbies.

The new Supreme Court justices (L-R: Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lady Black and Lord Briggs) facing their new colleagues

It was the president’s job to introduce the trio of new judges, beginning with Lady Black. Hale said it was a “particular pleasure” to welcome at long last another woman to the Supreme Court. She said she hopes it will not be another 13 years before we welcome a third, a fourth and a fifth.

Lady Black, formally robed, and being welcomed to the bench by a grinning Lady Hale

We also learned Black and Hale have more in common than their gender. The pair are both from Yorkshire, and have had successful pre-judiciary careers in family law. Moreover, Black has written a book called ‘Working Mothers Survival Guide’, which claims to “help the reader cope with guilt, provides suggestions on how to organise childcare arrangements and how to keep housework under control.”

The last two judges to be sworn in were Lord Lloyd-Jones and Lord Briggs, the former of whom made Supreme Court history today when he took his oath in both English and Welsh.

One of the more interesting elements of what at times was quite a repetitive ceremony was this: you found out what all the justices’ middle names are! Hale’s is Marjorie, Mance’s is Hugh, while Black’s is Margaret. While Lloyd-Jones doesn’t have a middle name, Briggs makes up for this with his: Townley Featherstone.

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