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Three new appointments to Supreme Court but still no commercial judges

While the UK Supreme Court announced today (27 June) that Lady Justice Arden, Lord Justice Kitchin and Lord Justice Sales will be appointed later this year, a lack of commercial expertise at the nation’s highest appeal court has drawn criticism.

The trio’s elevation comes after former deputy president Lord Mance retired this month, with Lord Hughes and Lord Sumption set to retire in August and December respectively.

All three of the new judges have a background in the Chancery Division, adding to the pre-existing expertise of the Supreme Court’s Lord Briggs and Lord Carnwath. However, with the latest round of appointments, there are no Supreme Court judges with Commercial Court experience.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan litigation partner Ted Greeno reacted to the news: ‘While I am sure they are all good appointments you have to wonder why there are no Commercial Court judges getting through to the Supreme Court, especially when there’s a difficulty recruiting judges into the Commercial Court. It’s not a great incentive.’

However, Greeno picked out Lady Justice Arden for praise: ‘Arden must be one of the longest-serving members of the senior judiciary. She’s very experienced and an excellent technical lawyer.’

Lady Justice Arden’s judicial career began in 1993 when she became High Court judge and the first female judge ever assigned to the Chancery Division. Between 2005 and 2018, she acted as head of international judicial relations for England and Wales.

Lord Justice Kitchin, who became a Queen’s Counsel in 1994 with a specialism in intellectual property – particularly patents – first became a judge with the High Court’s Chancery Division in 2005. Lord Justice Sales sat as a deputy High Court judge between 2004 and 2008 and took silk in 2006.

In July 2017 the Supreme Court gained its first female head, with Lady Hale confirmed as its new president.