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New justice disappoints campaigners

30 March 2010

Lord Justice Dyson is to become the twelfth Justice of the Supreme Court, the prime minister has announced.

Dyson LJ was presiding judge of the Technology and Construction Court from 1998 to 2001, when he was appointed to the Court of Appeal.

The appointment will take effect on 13 April 2010, but it is unclear whether the new arrival will become a lord, like the other male Supreme Court judges, or be known as ‘Sir John Dyson’.

The prime minister’s announcement, approved by the Queen, brings to an end the long-running saga over whether a talented QC should be ‘parachuted’ into the Supreme Court to bolster its intellectual resources.

Media speculation centred on Jonathan Sumption QC, joint head of Brick Court chambers, who withdrew his application at the end of last year (see solicitorsjournal.com 11 December 2009).

It was understood that there was strong opposition from the Court of Appeal judges at the idea of appointing a QC. Lord Justices Carnwarth, Rix, Laws and Sedley were tipped for the post, alongside Lord Justice Dyson.

Dyson LJ, who is 66, was deputy head of civil justice between 2003 and 2006.

Kate Malleson, convenor of the Equal Justices Initiative, which campaigns for greater participation by women in the judiciary, expressed disappointment at the “missed opportunity” to appoint another woman to the Supreme Court.

Malleson, professor of law at Queen Mary college, University of London, said the pool of potential female candidates for the Supreme Court would be very small if it was limited to the three female judges at the Court of Appeal – Lady Justices Arden, Smith and Hallett.

“What kind of encouragement does this provide to younger women lawyers with aspirations to a judicial career?” she asked.

“If the government is serious about judicial diversity, much more concerted measures are required, such as the adoption of targets, and appointment of qualified candidates directly from the legal profession and academia.”

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