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Supreme Court gets first ever female majority

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Two male and three female justices will hear a case next month in gender equality milestone

From left to right: Supreme Court president Lady Hale, Lady Black and Lady Justice Arden

Legal history will be made next month with the first ever female majority on a Supreme Court case.

Three of the five judges hearing the case of Re D on 3 October will be women — the first time this has happened in the UK’s highest court or its predecessor, the House of Lords.

The milestone is made possible by the addition of a third female judge to the ranks. Lady Justice Arden, who sits on the Court of Appeal, will step up to the top bench on 1 October along with Lord Justice Kitchin. The Supreme Court can sit with a minimum of three judges but in practice always has five or more per case, meaning that the court needed three female judges in post for a female majority to crop up.

Arden will team up with Supreme Court president Lady Hale and third female justice Lady Black to decide Re D, a deprivation of liberty case about a vulnerable 16-year-old boy.

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Lady Hale, now Supreme Court President, became the first ever woman to be appointed to the country’s highest court when she became a Law Lord in 2004. The Beyoncé of the legal profession, Hale was a member of the inaugural Supreme Court when it was created in 2009 and was joined by Lady Black last year. Arden’s addition makes three out of 12.

Hale has previously spoken out about the lack of female representation in the upper ranks of the judiciary, saying that women are still “seriously underrepresented” at the top.

Research published last year showed that the UK has one of the least diverse senior judiciaries in the world. Other courts in the English-speaking world are yet to have a majority-female bench, but New Zealand reached that milestone last year and the Supreme Court of Texas managed an all-female bench as long ago as 1925.

81 Comments

Anonymous

Lord help us

Anonymous

That sounds fun…

Anonymous

The best KK comments were deleted without trace…

Anonymous

I think you mean lord help you.
Good luck with that.

Seán McNally

It did, and that is why you have female justices.

Anonymous

Fantastic 🙂

Anonymous

And lo, the universe watched in breathless anticipation as slowly, steadily, with quiet yet unhesitating resolve, planet Earth failed collectively to give a s**t.

Brexitkrieg

Who cares?

Anonymous

Half the population cares. Jerk.

Anonymous

Your mama.

Sam

All these comments of “who cares?”… Women do! The profession has been patriarchal for far too long! 50% of the population is female, have the same respresentation in the judiciary I say!

Anonymous

Nice to have you back Katie, albeit in the comments rather than writing.

Anonymous

Women now account for 61% of all female law graduates within the UK – should that number be curtailed to achieve a 50/50 split too?

Honest Bob

Of course not, its because boys are lazy. Don’t you know, wealthy white women are the most discriminated against segment of our society. What they have to experience when they are excluded from posh male private members clubs and have to make do with their own posh private members clubs, when they are forced to take their husbands’ name, when they are judged at dinner parties for not pushing during labour, when they are looked at in a mean way for sending their kids to private nurseries rather than state, when female perfume which is more in demand and marketed differently is more expensive than Lynx, when their daughters are forced to rid their ponies with pink boots whilst the boys get blue…..the list goes on. It is really tough for them.

Anonymous

I really hope this is a joke because it was so funny.

Anonymous

Then your hopes are dashed it seems.

Joseph mullapudi

Show no discrimination- 4 God judges everyone according to their own deeds- ok- think of it- care.

Anonymous

Why?

Anonymous

Yup, as a woman barrister, this brings joy to my heart. And whenever there’s a comment about a 50/50 split, I am reminded of the legendary Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s response when she was asked how many women on the Supreme Court bench would be enough: “nine”. Because there’d been nine men for years, and no one batted an eyelid. If only!

Anonymous

That’s a mature argument.

Anonymous

Ah well, perhaps when you reach the highest level of the judiciary you’ll find your sense of humour.

Anonymous

Perhaps when the joke is funny I will too.

Anonymous

If you are Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you have trouble finding a pulse, let alone a sense of humour.

Anonymous

Yet she’s a Supreme Court juge in the most powerful country in the world.
You have a prominent pulse, what have you done with your life?

Anonymous

Wait, Ginsburg is a judge in Russia or China?

Anonymous

So sins of the father then ? No one batted an eye because that was the status quo.

And unlike non whites women didn’t face nearly the amount if violence that non whites did.

Only one worse off were non white women.

That’s why women’s empowerment came later. African American males were being slaughtered and the community as a whole oppressed left and right.

Society now frowns upon such things. Contemporary society and the law don’t encourage gender discrimination anymore in favour of either sex. All people demand is that no sex is given preference. There are exceptions of course.

And how is it useful to cite an American supreme court justice ?

The US supreme court justice system is rotten with blatant politicking and life terms.

It’s obscene to see how Party politics influence the Court, whereby predictions are made on justices voting on a question of law in line with their politics.

Anonymous

You feel the same about minorities?
Didn’t think so.

Anonymous

Oh Sam, haven’t you learnt yet that nothing repels moisture faster than a feminist ally…

Anonymous

If the judiciary should mirror the population regarding diversity, then where do you propose to draw the line?

Let us start with a completely blank slate. We have 12 judicial positions to fill. Therefore, we put six men and six women in those positions. Great start.

Sadly, all of the men and women were white. The BAME community accounts for around 15% of the population. They need to be ‘represented’ too. So we take one white man and one white woman and replace them with a black man and a black woman. Sorted.

But no, it isn’t sorted, because ‘black’ isn’t the only ethnic minority in the country. What about Indians, Pakistanis, Chinese, etc. You can’t swap one of the white judges, because then whites would be underrepresented. You’ll have to swap one of the black judges. But which one? You’ll have an underrepresentation of black men or black women, depending on which one you choose.

And then you have the LGBTQ community. Where are they? All of our judges are heterosexual. I do not know the statistics, but let’s guess that they make up 25% of the population. We’ll need to swap three of the heterosexual judges out. But again, which ones? All white? Because if so, there will be an underrepresentation of the BAMELGBTQ community. All men? Then the lesbians are not represented. It’s getting very tricky.

And what about their religious beliefs. We can’t have a judiciary who are all Christians. Trade some out in favour of a handful of Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, etc. But, again, which ones to trade. You now need to be extra careful, because if you remove one of the white male Christian judges in favour of a white male Jewish judge, you might have accidentally removed a white male Christian LBGTQ judge. And then the LBGTQ community is underrepresented again, and you’ll need to go and find another one.

And spare a thought for the dwarfism community! Where are they? Why on earth is there not a BAME LBGTQ dwarf sitting at the Supreme Court? Is there a BAME LBGTQ dwarf with the necessary qualifications to sit at the Supreme Court? Who knows.

All this, and we haven’t even discussed the fact that there are, obviously, 72 genders.

We could do this.

Or, alternatively, we could select judges based on nothing but ability and suitability for the role.

Anonymous

Or alternatively we could ignore this straw man, continue to appoint people on the basis of ability (a criterion that has never been in doubt) and celebrate the appointment of three women to a court that was for centuries all-male as a reflection of increased gender equality and a marker of how far we (everyone) have come.

Anonymous

It isn’t a straw man. The argument was: “50% of the population is female, have the same respresentation in the judiciary”. I was asking at what point would the maker of the argument draw the arbitrary line. Is it just females that require equality. If so, why?

I agree that this person’s achievement should be celebrated, but cannot possibly agree that we should celebrate it as ‘increased equality’. What does that even mean? ‘Equal’ means the same. How do you increase it? There is either equality or there isn’t. There isn’t equality, because the majority of the Supreme Court is still male.

Not only this, how is it even desirable to talk about gender (or any other form of) equality? That suggests that women should only ever make up 50%. What is all of the great candidates are female? Do you select inferior males to maintain equality, or abandon the equality argument?

Anonymous

As I said to a commenter below (is it you as well?) – relax, go outside, smile at a stranger or text a friend. You’ll feel better. Things aren’t as bad as you think.

Anonymous

I don’t think anyone said things are particularly bad, just that the argument in favour of gender equality for the sake of gender equality is a poor one. And it is possible to make that point while also smiling, texting friends and going outside.

Anonymous

Ok, but take the advice anyway 🙂

Anonymous

You really are a condescending buffoon.

Anonymous

The argument for greater female representation in the senior judiciary is not an argument in favour of gender equality for the sake of it. Nor, I think, is it necessarily about reflecting the same gender split as one sees in the general population, or the population of law students, or the population of barristers, or any other given population. It is to do with the fact that a woman of equal ability to a man faces considerably more barriers to achieving these positions of seniority than that man does. I do not think that the aim here should not necessarily be about making the composition of the court reflect the composition of a particular/the general population. It should be about celebrating the fact that three women have achieved this success despite the existence of the additional barriers they face. And it should be to do with examining why women of equal standing are denied the same opportunities and considering how that can be addressed.

Anonymous

I don’t think women still face additional barriers to senior judicial appointments any more, as we can see here.

Anonymous

@Anonymous 10:58pm. That is simply not true. Women of equal ability are persistently overlooked. There’s now been a black president of the USA. Are all black people now free from societal prejudices? Absolutely not.

Anonymous

@Anonymous 2:20am – Its simply true – very hard to argue that women still face barriers to senior judicial appointments. And undoubtedly the case that men of equal opportunity are often overlooked for all manner of appointments.

Anonymous

“And it should be to do with examining why women of equal standing are denied the same opportunities and considering how that can be addressed”.

Discrimination is banned. Since 1975. MPs slammed A&O for partner pay.

Does anyone deserve a million in pay ? After a certain income level say £95,000 why should it matter who earns more ? Let the free market decide.

The poor don’t benefit when their overlords are women or minorities instead of white males. Just ask those who suffered under Thatcher and now those under Mrs May.

Pepsi for example is a blight on the world regardless of who heads that company.

Anonymous

The problem with your argument is that you say “Nor, I think, is it necessarily about reflecting the same gender split as one sees in the general population”, but the original post said “50% of the population is female, have the same respresentation in the judiciary I say!” The argument people are objecting to is, literally, that the senior judiciary should look exactly like the general population. Which is ridiculous. Additionally, you have argued that a woman faces more obstacles than a man as if it is verifiable fact, and produced no verifiable facts.

Anonymous

If the argument was that female representation should reflect the female proportion of the general population, then that I think is incorrect to the extent that the pool of qualified females relative to the pool of qualified males does not reflect that proportion. But I think it remains true that women do face barriers and that women do not have access to the same advantages as objectively equally qualified men. It may be true that discrimination is prohibited. And I agree that it may be difficult to point to explicit cases of direct discrimination. But the discrimination is much subtler. There is still a pay gap (just look at the law firms’ self-reporting this year). Women face disadvantages in terms of accessing and benefiting from work networking (for example, http://www.adolphus.me.uk/emx/empirical_research/women_interviews1_files/p823.htm). Women are discriminated against based on appearance (e.g. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/13/fashion/makeup-makes-women-appear-more-competent-study.html?_r=0 or https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100806132218.htm). Women struggle to get the same credit for the same work as compared to men (e.g. https://blogs.wsj.com/atwork/2014/08/06/office-small-talk-helps-men-but-not-women-study-finds/ and http://www.catalyst.org/media/damned-or-doomed-catalyst-study-gender-stereotyping-work-uncovers-double-bind-dilemmas-women). It goes further (and obviously this is now not limited to law), but female run businesses are reported to struggle with access to funding and even access to government contracts.

And I have not even mentioned the disruption to their careers that women face should they want to have children.

Albeit in a context outside law, these are exactly the kinds of soft discrimination identified in studies such as the Lord Davies Report. These are not to do with hard legal rules prohibiting discrimination. It is to do with societal attitudes, and these are much harder to change.

These factors are relevant to the judiciary as much as there are to any other aspect of the legal profession, or the workplace beyond law.

Discrimination is subtle, but real.

Anonymous

@Sept 18th 10:12pm – you’ve produced a very detailed argument, and I’ll try and respond point by point in due course. At first glance, these types of discrimination do apply, but also apply to men, e.g. far more women only networking groups, in fact almost no male networking groups, etc. But I still think that there are no longer significant barriers to women reaching the senior levels of the judiciary, as we can see here.

Anonymous

@Sept 18th 10:12pm – the pay gap is because a few people at the top get extremely high pay, its not just because of gender. Reducing the salaries of the highest earners is the key to resolving this.

Anonymous

@Sept 18th 10:12pm – the Adolphus link is to an old study (17 years old) and references even older data (up to 27 years old), so a lot has changed in the workplace since then. I’m not sure that there is an ‘old boy network’ or ‘old boy ghetto syndrome’ as the study states – I think what should be done is to remove the mystique of what happens at networking events as I think a lot of perceptions are based on misunderstadings of how promotions are decided upon. I think networking should be as inclusive as possible for all who want to attend, and I agree with the female respondents in the study who don’t agree with women only networking events. I don’t doubt that there are some networking events which exclude women, but there are as many if not more which exclude men, and the exclusion of men tends to be more direct, i.e. there are very few explicitly ‘men in the workplace’ type groups. So there is discrimination against males and females. On the whole, if I wanted to network in such a way that I’d come into contact with senior management, I believe that there are more opportunities for women than there are for men.

Anonymous

@Sept 18th 10:12pm – the NYT article refers to a survey paid for by a cosmetics company where the respondents (most of whom were women) regarded women who took time over their appearance more positively than they viewed those who didn’t. I don’t see the discrimination angle here.

A white male barrister

Who says there has to be a white male judge at all?

Just saying…

Anonymous

Spot on. The person’s colour and gender have absolutely nothing to do with the person’s suitability for the role. That’s the point of the post. Why waste time trying to make sure every category is represented-particularly given that nobody can say with any degree of certainty what those categories are-when you could just base it entirely on ability.

Anonymous

Because brown people of equal ability, no actually better ability are not getting a foot in the door when it comes to pupillage. Look to see where the numbers deviate. It’s not in law school or bar school. It’s when there is a selection process that’s isn’t properly or at all regulated. But I guy there’s nothing to see here move along.

Anonymous

That’s a ridiculous argument, and not remotely what anyone is advocating.

For years, the judiciary has been massively dominated by male judges but it is obvious that men are not always the best judges. The judiciary is dominated by men because they are men, rather than because they are the best for the job.

The appointment of female judges is an indication that there is less discrimination in the judicial appointments process, and that finally, judges are being selected on the basis of merit, rather than gender.

The argument for a more diverse judiciary isn’t (just) about representation; it’s about discrimination in the appointments process itself.

Anonymous

How does it matter if men dominated the judiciary ?

Is English law worse or better off for it ? No of course not.

There’s a reason why –
1. A dozen INDEPENDENT nations still retain the privy council.

2. English law is the gold standard in the commercial world.

3. Most arbitrations in London are international in nature.

It ain’t because our judiciary was all male or lacked women.

That’s just the way life was. Can’t change the past. And the past ain’t half bad.

Who is exactly entitled to earn hundreds of thousands of pounds ? How does it matter for the poor if the new millionaire is man or a woman ?

It has and always will be a cruel world.

Thankfully English law has and always will be a shining example of wisdom and talent. And a bulwark against tyranny regardless of who the judge may be.

Anonymous

Except, you know that slavery thing that happened. Oh and that occupying and stealing from half of the world.

Yeah always a bulwark against tyranny.

Anonymous

Exactly right. We have sorted out the law school disparity now let’s sort out the pupillage and tenancy disparity.

Anonymous.

I’m not talking about historical happenings because in history toffs, and rich men dominated the world. That’s why the refrain “When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman” ? is so poignant. Power depended on whether you were rich.

That’s why couveture didn’t inspire much trenchant agitation because few owned property. However the suffragettes quite rightly were angry because 60% of males could vote but no woman no matter how much her net worth could.

Coming to the matter of Supreme Court appointments, isn’t it a bit American ?

1. Start with ditching competency in the law as the only prerequisite to appoint judges to the Supreme Court . (Doesn’t mean that all women appointed till now aren’t)

2. Then there will be demands for race based appointments. Even though 80% of White British DNA is result of settlement on the British isles 12,000 years ago. White British make up at last count (2011) 87% of the population. Thus no more than 2 justices should be non white. 10 justices must be white British.

3. Then sexual orientation. Which’ll mean 2% of judges must be non heteroes. That’s according to ONS stats for 2016.

4. Then gender based. GIRES estimated 56,000 non cis persons or 0.09% in 2009. Thus in the future that too would have to be taken in to account.

5. Then quite reasonably it could be demanded that religion or lack thereof too be a factor and judges must reflect religious attitudes.

6. Currently one justice seems to be Welsh. One justice is Scots. One justice is from NI. The English are underrepresented. Couldn’t a Welsh person born from Scottish and Irish parents be appointed instead ?

7. Then people could argue that wealth must be taken into account. How many Supreme Court justices were earning the average wage for their age ? Why is Johnathan Sumption a justice when he’s part of the 1% ?

8. Only one justice dabbled with Crime. Which isn’t strange for an Advocate. How many Justices currently were criminal barristers ? The Criminal Bar Association is the largest specialist bar association. Yet Criminal barristers are woefully underrepresented.

9. All justices or their partners are property owners. Is it fair that property owners should make up 100% of the Supreme Court ?

10. How many judges hold titles. Hereditary ones ? Why is it okay to discriminate against title holders ? Why shouldn’t titleholders and non titled Royals who are competent in the law be made judges. Are they not people too ? Don’t they deserve representation now that possession of a peerage (not title) doesn’t give anyone an automatic seat in parliament. Thus these people who can vote and pay taxes are woefully underrepresented. This point is made firmly tongue in cheek.

11. Also age. Why should only grey haired persons be made justices ? Why not someone who’s 42 ? Blair was 43.

Where does it all end ? The ideal justice if we only use place of birth, race, gender and sexuality is a gay POC (born in Scotland to parents born in Wales or vice versa or a parent born in each country) of non cis gender. They can only take up one seat.

Then the other seat for POC (non English) should go to a woman of colour.

The rest 10 will have to be 5 males and 5 females born in England.

This doesn’t take in to account income class or practice areas.

Anonymous

Wow, you really don’t get it do you?
Are you really that simple or do you act like it in the hopes others are as simple?

Anonymous

People really need to stop looking past the fact of a majority women split or a majority men one. Firms need to stop hiring BME people purely to boost figures and need to stop hiring women to boost figures and make it more even. The best people should be given the job regardless of their sex, race, religion or anything else. Fair enough if these women are deserving to be here, then congratulations but it is annoying when the women are posting that this is a sign of diversity when it isn’t. It doesn’t matter if the whole bench is female or if the whole bench is male, it should be the best people in the best position period.

Wilfred

How can one article have so many things wrong with it?

Most obviously, the headline and subtitle state that a female majority means gender equality. ‘Majority’, by definition, is unequal.

The article continues by explaining that only three of the 12 Judges are women. Again, this is not equal.

Additionally, in an article seemingly championing female judges, comparing Lady Hale to Beyonce seems a little inappropriate, unless, of course, Legal Cheek routinely refers to male Judges as the Jay-Z, Chris Brown, etc. of the profession.

Finally–and this is a problem with almost all articles about gender equality, to be fair–there is absolutely no argument as to why gender equality is desirable, necessary or fair. Surely we want the best Judges in the Supreme Court. Who cares if they are all men? Who cares if they are all women? Lady Justice Arden’s promotion is not a victory for women; it is a victory for Lady Justice Arden, who just so happens to be a woman. I suggest you stop banging on about ‘gender equality’ and start focusing on this individual woman’s achievements.

Anonymous

Oh boo hoo. Poor middle class white boy is crying at the thought society may not provide an in built advantage for him anymore.

Wilfred

1. You do not know that I am white.

2. You do not know that I am a boy.

3. You do not know that I am middle-class.

4. Please explain what you mean by ‘the inbuilt advantage for middle-class white boys’.

5. Even if there was an inbuilt advantage for middle-class white boys, please explain how the promotion of one female Judge to the Supreme Court, which already has two female Judges, has erased that advantage.

Anonymous

1. You do not know that I am white.

2. You do not know that I am a boy.

3. You do not know that I am middle-class.

Oh sweetie…

Wilfred

So you have ‘answered’ the first three points, which were not questions, but completely ignored points four and five, which were actual questions. On a legal publication.

I do not know you. I do not know your gender, colour, class, sexuality, etc. However, I am going to assume that you are somebody who fails to achieve, and blames that failure on the ‘white middle-class patriarchy’, rather than your own inability to recognise a question and to string a sentence of more than two words together.

Anonymous

My dear, assume away, it’s nothing to me. But do me a favour, and set outside and get some sunshine, or do something nice for a friend. It’ll make you feel better, I promise.

Wilfred

Thank you for your sound, reasoned advice.

Anonymous

Take it anyway, no one will know and I promise it will make you feel better 🙂

Anonymous

Just go and pleasure yourself over some Rod Liddle

Anonymous

I think she has a point.
Sorry Wilf, you’re toast.

Anonymous

Such a fool.

Anonymous

Disgusting comment.

Anonymous

How do we know you’re a white, male, middle class?

Er… the name’s a dead giveaway!

Anonymous

On an article purporting to support gender equality, it’s lovely to see so many comments from reasonable minded individuals attacking another for being white, for being a male, for being middle class, and for having a white male middle class name.

Anonymous

Wilfred is a Christian name here in India amongst Indian Christians. Google the name Wilfred Desouza. There is a man called David Cameron and a man called David Lammy. No race owns ordinary names. You’re a racialist.

S anjay

Too right.

Care to try and guess my ethnicity?

Anonymous

White ??

Norman maybe ???

Anonymous

His last name is Ponsonby-Jones the third.

Anonymous

I’d be a judge, but only if barristers provided me with skeleton arguments on which to base my judgments, on the one hand, and only if the civil service provided young grade 7s to do a first draft for me, on the other.

You cannot cut corners and be jolly, otherwise.

Anonymous

Wow. We have Beyoncé and two unknowns.

Anonymous

Kelly Rowland and LaTavia Roberson?

Anonymous

Middle-class white women are the most privileged social group now.

I want to see the equality agenda pushed forward more rapidly at this stage to have them replaced in the near future by women of colour. The fact that we see “three middle-class white women” as some kind of triumph for equality only reveals how far behind we are and how slowly we are moving.

“Three middle-class white women”, I hear you applaud. Why not two women of colour (one from the black community, and one from the East Asian or Southeast Asian community) and one white woman? Come to think of it, why have a place reserved for a white woman in the first place?

It should be as “thinkable” that every woman on the Supreme Court is a woman of colour as it is thinkable that every woman on the Supreme Court is a middle-class white woman.

Anonymous

This will not happen until the institutionalised racism in pupillage places is removed.

J

It should be he person for the job, whatever their colour or genitals.

Anonymous

The Beyoncé Of the legal profession?

A black American singer when writing about a white British judge?

Can the writer only think of one inspirational woman??

Seriously?

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