Today, Friday 31st July 2009, brought the curtain down on a venerable institution – the Judicial Committee of The House of Lords – to be transformed on October 1st into The Supreme Court of The United Kingdom. The judges of the Supreme Court are to be styled ‘Justices of the Supreme Court’.
But… there is still a problem… how are they to be referred to in the papers, on television? As Joshua Rozenberg pointed out in the Law Society Gazette this week… calling them ‘Justice’ is either a bit too American and could lead to confusion with our most senior judges being on a lower level in title terms than a High Court judge (Mr Justice or Mrs Justice ) or the Court of Appeal judge ( Lord Justice or Lady Justice). Rozenberg suggests that Justice of the Supreme Court Lord Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony is just not going to fit in the television captions or, I would add, be capable of being remembered by the average television autocue based presenter/interviewer.
I opened a bottle of Rioja and imagined a conversation between two men who meet in the pub quite a lot. I shall call them Man in a Hat and Man in a Cap.
Man in hat: You do know that the Law Lords stopped being Law Lords today don’t you?
Man in cap: Stopped being Law Lords…? what sort of Lords are they going to be then?
Man in hat: Well.. they’re still going to be Law… Lords… as in Lords who do Law… but they won’t be Law Lords… The House of Lords… or part of it… … see… has changed into the Supreme Court….
Man in a cap: Yeah… I read about that in The Telegraph… they’ve got a new building an all…. an expensive new building…. 65 million quid it was… did you see that? And.. I also read that new judges to this Chicken Supreme Court aren’t going to be Lords at all…. just law judges… so won’t they feel a bit left out… what with all the others being Time Lords who aren’t any longer… and that?
Man in hat: Yes… I saw that in The Mail. Disgraceful… you’d have thought a man or woman who works all his or her life for his or her country and goes to our highest court of law would get a Lordship wouldn’t you? … especially since all the other lords who do law but aren’t law lords any longer have got lordships.
Man in cap: So if a new judge is appointed to this Supreme Court aren’t going to be Lords what will they be? Sirs? Dames? ….
Man in hat: Well… they will probably be Sir or Dame already because of being a High Court judge.
Man in cap: But that is a bit confusing…. I read that a judge … if a bloke… goes to the High Court… the Queen gets her sword out and he becomes a Sir and then everyone calls him My Lord. But… he is a ‘Sir’, gets called My Lord and he is called Mr Justice in the newspapers and on the telly…. what’s that all about then? I’ve got a Scottish mate… he says it is even more confusing up in Scotland. There… he says… judges of the Court of Session don’t get Lordships but are called Lord and when they go from the Outer House to the Inner House…First or Second Division… some of them who are already called Lord… get real Lordships in the House of Lords….. and can call themselves Lord…even though they already have been calling themselves Lord… even though they aren’t Lords…. .. but they can’t call themselves Lord Lord.…
Man in hat and Man in cap sip their drinks… both in a reflective mood…
Man in cap… continues: And what about the geezer who isn’t a Lord or a Sir when he leapfrogs straight from his Chambermaid or from his law firm or university to the Supreme Court… as is allowed… I saw that in The Telegraph… by the new laws…. does he get a Sir en route before calling himself Lord like the Scots judges ?…. and if not, why not…?
Man in hat: Fuck it… I can’t cope… fancy another?
Man in cap: Don’t mind if I do My Lord….. perhaps the new judges will be called The Supremes…..?