When the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom opens in a few hours, no longer will the most senior judges in the realm also be in the business of proposing, revising and amending legislation in Parliament’s House of Lords. Former members of the House’s Appellate Committee, also known as Law Lords, the new Justices will still be House members, but they will no longer sit or vote in the House. According to The Times, the judges will swear themselves in today, there being no judges senior to them to do the honors.
Created by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, the Supreme Court embodies a new, clear statement of judicial independence. It will be the final court of appeal for all civil cases in the United Kingdom, all criminal cases in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and will also assume the devolution jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. For an introduction to the UK judicial system, click here.
The new Court (SCOTUK?) will film almost all its proceedings and sometimes broadcast them live. Instead of a Chief Justice, the Court has a President, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the former Senior Law Lord.
Perhaps because the name of the new court “inescapably implies the kind of powers enjoyed by other supreme courts around the world,” critics worry that the new court will, American style, assert its power over Parliament and the executive. Press in GMT today reassure that the new Court “is a perfectly English idea . . . [not]another American import” and it “has no power to nullify acts of parliament as unconstitutional.” Concerns about selection of justices continue.