The profile of the judiciary was significantly raised this week as the search to fill the most senior judicial role in the country began and arguably now the most well-known civil barrister in the country was appointed as a High Court judge.
The hunt for a new Lord Chief Justice (LCJ) was kick-started by the Judicial Appointment Committee (JAC), which this week opened its selection process following the resignation of Lord Judge in September.
A selection panel including JAC chairman Christopher Stephens, president of the Supreme Court Lord Neuberger, Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson and judicial appointments commissioner Noel Lloyd and Dame Valerie Strachan will oversee the entire process and the successful candidate will take up appointment on 1 October 2013.
Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling – responsible for making the final call – highlighted that the next LCJ will need to be a reformer. ‘The justice system and judiciary, like all public services, needs to continue to reform to provide a more efficient service that delivers access to justice quickly and effectively, while delivering value for money for the taxpayer,’ he said.
‘The scale of the reform incoming years is likely to be unprecedented. This reform will involve changes to the judiciary itself and how they work, as well as reform to the wider justice system in which the judiciary will need to play their part.’
Eligible candidates should either be a judge of the Court of Appeal or the High Court.
One potential candidate could be head of 39 Essex Street Robert Jay QC – widely praised for his handling of the phone hacking inquiry – who has just been appointed to join the High Court as part of a trio of judicial appointments including Judge Andrew Gilbart QC and Susan Lascelles Carr QC.
The now Mr Justice Jay was noted during the Leveson inquiry for his politeness and razor sharp questioning, but if he brings further limelight to the bench it may be for his extensive use of the English language. As noted by the Guardian’s Maev Kennedy during the inquiry: ‘Sometimes his language is extreme enough to cause a frisson of panic in those who may have dozed off occasionally in double science: the emails between News Corp and Jeremy Hunt’s special adviser, he remarked, showed “light refracted through two intermediate prisms”.’