Supreme Court on hunt for ‘exceptional’ candidates to succeed Phillips SCJ as president

The Supreme Court has began the hunt for a new president, with incumbent Lord Phillips set to retire on 30 September.


Lord Phillips SCJ
Lord Phillips SCJ

Judges with “social awareness” are wanted for the £215,000-a-year top job at the highest court in the UK.

The court is now publicly advertising the opening, with its selection commission saying it is “anxious” to attract candidates from a wide field who show “outstanding leadership”, “vision” and an “understanding of the contemporary world”.

The Supreme Court is the highest power for all civil and criminal appeals and comprises 12 justices, one of whom serves as president and one as deputy president.

It was established in October 2009 and recently ruled on the asbestos insurance ’Trigger’ case (28 March 2012) and a case that reinstated the ’Reynolds’ privilege defence against libel (21 March 2012).

The minimum qualification required to become president of the court is two years of high judicial office, which includes serving as a High Court judge, a Court of Appeal judge or a judge of the Court of Session in Scotland. Alternatively, a senior court solicitor or barrister who has served at least 15 years would also be eligible.

But the application form warns: “The cases dealt with by the Supreme Court include the most complex in the courts of the UK and demand the deepest level of judicial knowledge and understanding combined with the highest intellectual capacity. Successful candidates will have to demonstrate independence of mind and integrity and that they meet the criteria TO AN EXCEPTIONAL DEGREE.”

The court explains that this would mean applicants showing that they can analyse and explore legal problems creatively and flexibly, display clarity of thought, work quickly under pressure, work with colleagues but challenge and debate, and represent the court with lectures, conferences and committees as well as discussions with the Lord Chancellor on policy.

Candidates must provide examples of their judgments that have “advanced legal thinking or changed the existing law” and those making it through the initial stages will have to make a presentation to the selection commission, which includes president Phillips SCJ and deputy Lord Hope.