Thursday, November 20, 2008

Only eight days left to apply

As Times Online reports today, possible candidates have only eight more days to hand in their application for a position as a judge at the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

Probably only a few interested people outside the UK will know that the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 decided to establish this court. It is supposed to commence work in October 2009, once work on the court building, the former Middlesex Guildhall (see picture) has been finalised.

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom will take over the judicial functions of the House of Lords. These were normally not exercised by the entire House of Lords, but by the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (the so-called Law Lords).

The new court will be the highest court of appeal for all questions of English, Welsh and northern Irish law. Whereas the same applies to civil law questions in Scotland, criminal matters there will remain to be decided by the High Court of Justiciary.

In addition the functions of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which has been the last instance of appeal above the highest courts of some Commonwealth states, will also be transferred to the Supreme Court.

Initially the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary will be the Supreme Court judges. But in light of the fact that three of those will retire before the new court will commence its activities, the current application procedure has been initiated.

In addition to the question who will be the new judges there are many other formal issues that have not yet been decided. Whilst the organisational issues for broadcasts from the court are still under review, the laying of cables has created the necessary factual conditions for television and webcasts.

This, however, leads to other open questions about the formalities of the Supreme Court’s judgements. In addition to the facts of the case (not a standard so far) it is being considered that a summary of the decision should be given.

Another question: Who is supposed to write the judgement? In the current practise each of the Law Lords can write their own opinion which can contradict those of their colleagues and thereby confuse even professional lawyers. It is still being discussed, if in future only one of the judges should write the judgement found be the majority whilst the others would only given an opportunity to voice their differing views in a footnote or a statement after the judgement.

It also still needs to be determined how many and which judges will sit to hear what kind of cases. All this will have to be clarified and decided before the court is supposed to start working next year

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