Appointment of Members of the Supreme Court

Appointment of members of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court consists of 12 members, although cases are always heard by an odd number of justices so that a majority verdict can be reached. In most cases five or possibly nine justices take part; reflecting the importance of the issue, 11 took part in the 2016-17 review of the High Court ruling that Parliament rather than the government should initiate the UK's exit from the European Union.

The most senior figure is designated as the President. This post was held by Lord Phillips from 2009 to 2012, and since then has been held by Lord Neuberger until 2017, Lady Hale until 2020, currently Lord Reed. Although they are known as 'Lord' or 'Lady', members of the Supreme Court do not sit in the House of Lords until their term of office has come to an end.

Qualifications and appointment process

Supreme Court justices will usually have served as a senior judge for 2 years, or been a qualified lawyer for at least 15 years. The original members were the former Law Lords, who moved from the House of Lords to their new premises. When a vacancy occurs, nominations are made by an independent five-member Selection Commission, consisting of the President and Deputy President of the Court, a member of the Judicial Appointments Commission and a member of each of the equivalent bodies for Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Lord Chancellor (also known as the Justice Secretary) either confirms or rejects the person put forward, although he or she cannot reject names repeatedly. The appointment is confirmed by the prime minister and then by the monarch.

Notice how different this is to the appointment of US Supreme Court justices.