The SC, politicians and the media

16th February 2017
The Financial Times reported how Lord Neuberger’s wife’s Tweets were scrutinised to pick up any pro-EU bias, and how Iain Duncan Smith (Brexiteer) called for ‘parliamentary hearings to examine the views of Supreme Court justice nominees — as is the practice in the US, where potential justices, who have extensive powers to overturn legislation, face Senate hearings.’
Neuberger’s reply to that was that it would be “very unfortunate if we had political scrutiny of the appointment of judges in this country…  First of all, I wonder what would be asked of the judge and what would the benefit would be...  If you are a decent judge your political views will be put on one side when you go into court.” He said he was “not really clear” what the political views of many of his colleagues on the Supreme Court were, calling this “one of the nice things about my job”.
Neuberger also said that the media’s coverage of the SC hearing was, in general, all right, but that Brexiteers had ‘made heroes’ of the three dissenting judges, and that the social media threats and attacks on Gina Miller were “very worrying”.
Neuberger and a colleague are about to retire; there will be three vacancies to the SC (another retired in the summer).  Brenda Hale is likely to be next president; she said that she feels, as the only woman, that she sticks out “like a bad tooth”.  Neuberger is actively trying to get a more socially/ ethnically diverse range of applicants.  They will be appointed by an independent commission (separate from the JAC, but, of course, the JAC has already appointed those applicants to the judiciary in the first place.
The judiciary are aware of their possible background bias; they are also intensely aware and protective of judicial independence – the main reason why politicians gnash their teeth, as they know they’ll have no sway.  Judges uphold the rule of law, and that’s that.

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