Promotions to the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, the nation's highest court, has twelve judges or "justices". Judicial retirement age is 75 (for those admitted pre 31 March 1995) or 70 (for those admitted from 31 March 1995). Six of the Justices will step down and be replaced in 2017 and 2018, and the process has already begun.

Baroness Hale (a family law specialist) has recently been appointed the new President of the Supreme Court, following the retirement of the previous President, Lord Neuberger (a real estate and insolvency specialist). She is the first woman to be a judge of the UK's highest court (appointed in 2009), and the first female President or head of the Court.

Three new justices have recently been appointed: Lady Black (a family law specialist), Lord Lloyd Jones (an international, EU and public law specialist), and Lord Briggs (a specialist in banking, securities, corporate and insolvency law). They replace Lords Neuberger, Toulson (a common law specialist) and Clarke (a shipping specialist).

The remaining three retirements will follow in 2018 with Lord Mance (a commercial specialist) due to retire in June, Lord Hughes (a criminal law specialist) in August, and Lord Sumption in December. Lord Sumption was appointed straight from his commercial practice at the Bar, "leapfrogging" the High Court and the Court of Appeal, in 2012 – the first practitioner to go straight to the highest UK court since Lord (Cyril) Radcliffe in 1949. Lord Mance's retirement will open up an opportunity for a new Deputy President of the Supreme Court. The replacements for Lords Mance, Hughes and Sumption have not been selected or made public yet.

Lord Briggs - new commercial specialist in the Supreme Court

Our clients may be interested to know some of the details of cases in which Lord Briggs - the newest commercial specialist appointed to the Court - has previously been involved as a barrister and subsequently a judge. While practising at the Bar, he acted for parties involved in some of the largest commercial frauds and international insolvencies of the 1990s and early 2000s, including the fraud on Brazilian bank Banco Noroeste, Castor Holdings (a Canadian real estate lender), the restructuring of TXU's UK energy business, and two major "rogue trader" cases (one involving the disqualification of directors of Barings following the Nick Leeson scandal; the other involving market manipulation by Sumitomo copper trader Yasuo Hamanaka, in which Briggs defended clearing bank Credit Agricole).

As a High Court judge, Lord Briggs dealt with a number of high-profile cases flowing from the 2008 financial crisis: he was in charge of the extensive Lehman Brothers insolvency litigation from 2009 to 2013, and also ruled on a "credit crunch" dispute between creditors in the administration of a structured investment vehicle managed by London hedge fund Cheyne Capital. In 2007, he decided that British Nuclear Fuels had materially overstated its capacity to reprocess spent uranium at Sellafield, and that certain of its customers could avoid reprocessing agreements as a result. In the Court of Appeal, he recently delivered a joint majority judgment that the Leipzig Water Authority was entitled to avoid a series of very large credit derivative transactions entered into with UBS and other banks, on the grounds of bribery and corruption. In another high-profile commercial appeal, concerning a takeover battle for JKX (a London-listed oil and gas exploration business), Briggs ruled that JKX was entitled to prevent shares controlled by Igor Kolomoisky and Alexander Zhukov from voting at an AGM. His decision was overruled by the Supreme Court, which considered that in using its powers to block voting to try to defeat a corporate raid, the JKX board had acted for invalid or improper reasons.