|Supreme Court of the United Kingdom|
Badge of the Supreme Court
|Location||Middlesex Guildhall, London|
|Composition method||Appointed by Monarch on advice
Chosen name recommended to PM by a selection commission.
|Authorized by||Constitutional Reform Act 2005, Part 3|
|Number of positions||12|
|President of the Supreme Court|
|Currently||Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers|
|Since||1 October 2009|
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The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is the supreme court (court of last resort, highest appellate court) in all matters under English law, Welsh law, Northern Irish law and Scottish civil law (the court has no authority over criminal cases in Scotland, where the High Court of Justiciary remains the supreme criminal court). The Supreme Court also has jurisdiction to determine devolution disputes — cases in which the legal powers of the three devolved governments or laws made by the devolved legislatures are questioned.
The Supreme Court was established by Part 3 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 and started work on 1 October 2009. It assumed the judicial functions of the House of Lords, which were exercised by the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (commonly called "Law Lords"), the 12 professional judges appointed as members of the House of Lords to carry its judicial business out. Its jurisdiction over devolution matters had previously been held by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
The main role of the UK Supreme Court is to hear appeals from courts in the United Kingdom's three legal systems: England and Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. (English and Welsh law differ only to the extent that the National Assembly for Wales makes laws for Wales that differ from those in England.) The Supreme Court acts as the highest court for civil appeals from the Court of Session in Scotland but the highest appeal for criminal cases is kept in Scotland. It may hear appeals from the civil Court of Session, just as the House of Lords did previously.
From the Court of Session, permission to appeal is not required and any case can proceed to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom if two Advocates certify that an appeal is suitable. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, leave to appeal is required either from the Court of Appeal or from a Justice of the Supreme Court itself.
The Court's focus is on cases that raise points of law of general public importance. Like the previous Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, appeals from many fields of law are likely to be selected for hearing—including commercial disputes, family matters, judicial review claims against public authorities and issues under the Human Rights Act 1998. The Court also hears some criminal appeals, but not from Scotland as there is no right of appeal from the High Court of Justiciary, Scotland's highest criminal court.
The Supreme Court also determines "devolution issues" (as defined by the Scotland Act 1998, the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and the Government of Wales Act 2006). These are legal proceedings about the powers of the three devolved administrations—the Northern Ireland Executive and Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh Assembly Government and the National Assembly for Wales. Devolution issues are previously heard by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and most are about compliance with rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, brought into national law by the Devolution Acts and the Human Rights Act 1998.
The creation of a Supreme Court for the United Kingdom was first mooted in a July 2003 Department of Constitutional Affairs Consultation Paper . Although the report noted that there had been no criticism of the current law lords, or any indication of an actual bias; it felt that the separation of the judicial functions of the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords should be made explicit from the legislative functions of the House of Lords. First, it was concerned whether there is any longer sufficient transparency of independence from the executive and the legislature to give assurance of the independence of the judiciary. Looked at alternatively it was argued that requirement for the appearance of impartiality and independence also limited the ability of the Law Lords to contribute to the work of the House of Lords, thus reducing the value to both them and the House of their membership.  Second, it was concerned that it was not always understood by the public that judicial decisions of "the House of Lords" were in fact taken by the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords and that non-judicial members were never involved in its judgements. Conversely, it was felt that the the extent to which the Law Lords themselves have decided to refrain from getting involved in political issues in relation to legislation on which they might later have to adjudicate was not always appreciated. The new President of The Court Lord Phillips has claimed that their old position had confused people and that with the Supreme Court there would for the first time in the UK be a clear separation of powers among the judiciary, the legislature and the executive. Finally, it was noted that space within the House of Lords was at a constant premium and a separate supreme court would ease the pressure on the Palace of Westminster. 
The main argument against the court was that the previous system had worked well and kept costs down. Reformers expressed concerns that the historical admixture of legislative, judicial and executive power in the UK might conflict with the state's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. Officials who make or execute laws have an interest in court cases that put those laws to the test. When the state invests judicial authority in those officials, it puts the independence and impartiality of the courts at risk. Consequently, it was supposedly possible that the decisions of the Law Lords might be challenged in the European Court of Human Rights on the basis that they had not constituted a fair trial.
Lord Neuberger has expressed fear that the new court could make itself more powerful than the House of Lords committee it succeeded, saying that there is a real risk of "judges arrogating to themselves greater power than they have at the moment". Lord Phillips said such an outcome was "a possibility", but was "unlikely".
The reforms were controversial and were brought forward with little consultation but were subsequently extensively debated in Parliament. During 2004, a select committee of the House of Lords scrutinised the arguments for and against setting up a new court. The Government estimated the set-up cost of the Supreme Court at £56.9 million.
Before 1 October 2009, there were two other courts known as supreme court, namely the Supreme Court of England and Wales, which was created in the 1870s under the Judicature Acts, and the Supreme Court of Judicature in Northern Ireland, each of which consists of a Court of Appeal, High Court of Justice and Crown Court. When the provisions of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 came into force, those became known as the Senior Courts of England and Wales and the Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland respectively, to avoid confusion.
Justices of the Supreme Court are not subject to term limits, but may be removed from office on the address of Parliament. All British judges (including Supreme Court justices) are forced to retire at the age of 70 if first appointed to a judicial office after 31 March 1995, or at the age of 75 otherwise.
In addition to the twelve permanent Justices, the President may request other senior judges, drawn from two groups, to sit as "acting judges" of the Supreme Court.
The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 makes provision for a new appointments process for Justices of the Supreme Court. A selection commission will be formed when vacancies arise. This will be composed of the President and Deputy President of the Supreme Court and a member of the Judicial Appointments Commission of England and Wales, the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland and the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission. In October 2007, the Ministry of Justice announced that this appointments process would be adopted on a voluntary basis for appointments of Lords of Appeal in Ordinary. New judges appointed to the Supreme Court after its creation will not necessarily receive peerages.
Ten Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (Law Lords) holding office on 1 October 2009 became the first justices of the 12-member Supreme Court. The 11th place on the Supreme Court was filled by Lord Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony (formerly the Master of the Rolls), who was the first Justice to be appointed directly to the Supreme Court. One of the former Law Lords, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, was appointed to replace Lord Clarke as Master of the Rolls, and so did not move to the new court. His replacement, who will be the twelfth and final justice of the Supreme Court, has not yet been announced.
The first and current Justices, in order of seniority, (omitting the yet to be announced 12th justice) are:
|Name||Born||Alma Mater||Age at appt.||First day||Prior positions|
|21 January 1938 (age 71)||Kings College, Cambridge||71||1 October 2009||Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (2008-2009); Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales (2005-2008); Master of the Rolls (2000-2005); Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (1999-2000); Lord Justice of Appeal (1995-1999); Justice of the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court (1987-1995); Recorder (1982-1987).|
|27 June 1938 (age 71)||St John's College, Cambridge; University of Edinburgh||71||1 October 2009||Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (1996-2009); Lord President of the Court of Session (1989-1996); Dean of the Faculty of Advocates (1986-1989); Chairman of the Medical Appeal Tribunal (1985-1986).|
|20 March 1936 (age 73)||Brasenose College, Oxford||73||1 October 2009||Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (1997-2009); Lord Justice of Appeal (1994-1997); Justice of the High Court (1985-1994).|
|18 September 1944 (age 65)||New College, Oxford; University of Glasgow||65||1 October 2009||Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (2001-2009); Lord President of the Court of Session (1996-2001); Justice of the High Court of Justiciary and the Court of Session (1995-1996); Lord Advocate of Scotland (1992-1995); Solicitor General for Scotland (1989-1992).|
|17 March 1938 (age 71)||Trinity College, Cambridge||71||1 October 2009||Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (2002-2009); Lord Justice of Appeal (1997-2002); Justice of the High Court (1994-1997).|
|31 March 1947 (age 62)||Girton College, Cambridge||62||1 October 2009||Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (2004-2009); Lord Justice of Appeal (1999-2003); Justice of the High Court (1994-1999); Recorder (1989-1994).|
|9 April 1937 (age 72)||Worcester College, Oxford||72||1 October 2009||Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (2004-2009); Lord Justice of Appeal (1992-2004); Justice of the High Court (1984-1992); Recorder (1979-1984).|
|6 June 1943 (age 66)||University College, Oxford||66||1 October 2009||Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (2005-2009); Lord Justice of Appeal (1999-2005); Justice of the High Court (1993-1999); Recorder (1990-1993).|
|7 May 1941 (age 68)||Downing College, Cambridge; Columbia Law School, New York||68||1 October 2009||Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (2009); Lord Justice of Appeal (2007-2009); Justice of the High Court (2000-2007); Deputy High Court Judge (1997-2000); Partner at Herbert Smith (1971-2000).|
|22 February 1948 (age 61)||Queen's University Belfast||61||1 October 2009||Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (2009); Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland (2004-2009); Justice of the High Court (1993-2004).|
|13 May 1943 (age 66)||King's College, Cambridge||66||1 October 2009||Master of the Rolls (2005-2009); Lord Justice of Appeal (1998-2005); Justice of the High Court (1993-1998); Recorder (1985-1992).|
The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 gave time for a suitable building to be found and fitted out before the Law Lords moved out of the Houses of Parliament, where they had previously used a series of rooms strung out along a corridor in the House of Lords.
After a lengthy survey of suitable sites, including Somerset House, the Government announced that the new court would be located in the Middlesex Guildhall, in Parliament Square, Westminster. That decision was the subject of an inquiry by a committee of Parliament, and the grant of planning permission by Westminster City Council for refurbishment works was challenged in judicial review proceedings by the conservation group SAVE Britain's Heritage. It was also reported that English Heritage had been put under enormous pressure to approve the scheme. Feilden + Mawson LLP, supported by Foster & Partners, were appointed architects for the project.
The official badge of the Supreme Court (near right) was granted by the College of Arms in October 2008. It comprises both the Greek letter omega (representing finality) and the symbol of Libra (symbolising the scales of justice), in addition to the four floral emblems of the United Kingdom: a Tudor rose, representing England, conjoined with the leaves of a leek, representing Wales; a flax for Northern Ireland; and a thistle, representing Scotland.
Two adapted versions of its official badge are used by the Supreme Court. One (above, in infobox at top right portion of this article) features the words "The Supreme Court" and the letter omega in black (in the official badge granted by the College of Arms, the interior of the Latin and Greek letters are gold and white, respectively), and displays a simplified version of the crown (also in black) and larger, stylised versions of the floral emblems; this modified version of the badge is featured in the new Supreme Court website, as well as in the forms that will be used by the Supreme Court. A further variant on the above omits the crown entirely and is featured prominently throughout the building.
Yet another emblem is formed from a more abstract set of depictions of the four floral emblems and is used in the carpets of the Middlesex Guildhall. It was designed by Sir Peter Blake, famous for designing the cover of The Beatles' 1967 album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.