Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales: Wikis


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Law of England and Wales

This article is part of the series:
Courts of England and Wales

The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales is the head of the judiciary of England and Wales. Historically, he was the second-highest judge of the Courts of England and Wales, after the Lord Chancellor, but that changed as a result of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, which removed the judicial functions from the office of Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chief Justice is also the presiding judge of the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal. The first Lord Chief Justice to act as head of the judiciary after the Lord Chancellor relinquished that role was Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers.

Under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, the Lord Chief Justice is chosen by a specially appointed committee, convened by the Judicial Appointments Commission. The current Lord Chief Justice is Lord Judge, who took over the role on 1 October 2008 following the promotion of Lord Phillips to the position of Senior Law Lord.

Until the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 came into force on 3 April 2006, the Lord Chief Justice was also the head of the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court. There is now a separate post of President of the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court, currently held by Sir Anthony May.

Originally, each of the three high common law courts – the King's Bench, the Court of Common Pleas, and the Court of the Exchequer – had its own chief justice. That of the Exchequer Court was styled as the Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and that of the Common Pleas was Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, leaving the head of the King's (or Queen's) Bench to be known simply as the Lord Chief Justice. Although the Court of the King's (or Queen's) Bench had existed since 1234, the title of chief justice was not used until 1268. In the intermediary period, one of the justices would be considered the senior judge, and hold a position similar to that later held by the chief justice. The courts, however, were combined in 1875, creating a single Lord Chief Justice of England.

The suffix "and Wales", now found in statutes and elsewhere, was unilaterally appended by Lord Bingham between 1996 and 2000. There is also a Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland. The Lord Chief Justice's equivalent in Scotland is the Lord President of the Court of Session, who also holds the post of Lord Justice-General in the High Court of Justiciary.


Chief Justices, King's (Queen's) Bench, to 1875

Lords Chief Justice of England (later England and Wales), 1875–present

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