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Lord Neuberger opens up about life as a judge

Lord Neuberger delivered the Neill Lecture at Oxford University’s law school on 10 February. He opened up about the first time his judgment was overturned and described the complex emotions judges experience over the course of their careers.

Lord Neuberger said: ‘When I was reversed, I could never make up my mind whether it was better to think “yes, I see where I went wrong: they are right”, or “no, they’ve got it wrong: I was right”. And, in truth, there is rarely any opprobrium in being reversed. The first time I was reversed, the judgment was given by Lord Justice Mummery, who characteristically got in touch and said that I should not take it amiss: the Court of Appeal saw many excellent judgments which they nonetheless overruled. When I got to the Court of Appeal, I discovered that this was true; I also discovered that the Court of Appeal saw quite a few poor judgments which they nonetheless upheld.’

He added: ‘Promotion to the Court of Appeal represents quite a change. While there is the initial elations at not having to deal with witnesses and manage trials, most appellate judges miss not seeing and assessing witnesses and juries, and regret never having to preside over a trial again...from running things on your own, you have to adjust to being number three in a committee.’

Lord Neuberger is pushing to diversify the Supreme Court and has introduced 'insight visits' to the Supreme Court for candidates meeting the minimum statutory requirement. Currently, Deputy president of the Supreme Court, The Right Hon the Baroness Hale of Richmond, is the only woman represented among the twelve justices.

The Law Society’s Solicitor Judges Division is involved in an effort, with the Supreme Court, to diversify the UK’s highest decision maker by encouraging applications from solicitors. The Supreme Court said: ‘Solicitors with 15 years’ experience in practice will typically meet the statutory minimum criteria, and lack of judicial experience is not a bar to application.’


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