It is very important for a society’s senior leadership to reflect the population it governs. If this is not the case, laws are created that can sometimes be detrimental to certain groups within that very population. This may be the catalyst behind the recent comments made by United Kingdom Supreme Court judges. Currently the highest court in the land is 100% white, with 10 of its 11 members being male. According to The Guardian, “the court’s president Lord Neuberger said he and his colleagues want that to change. “What we are looking for is to recruit on the basis that the court becomes more diverse,” said the Lord.
The timing is poignant as many expect as many as 3 judges to retire over the next 2 years, including Lord Neuberger. The Supreme Court is currently recruiting its replacement of Lord Toulson who retired last year. Although judges are promoting diversity, the numbers of lowering courts have mixed results. For example at the tribunal level, “Some 45% of judges are women and 10% are black or ethnic minority”. Meanwhile at the appeals level, 23% are women and none are BAME persons. Supreme court judge Lord Sumpton estimated that although it is noble to want to increase diversity at the highest court, it cannot be done while discriminating against qualified male applicants. In his estimates, it would take 50 years to achieve gender equality at the top of the judiciary.
While there are a few women who are seen as possible candidates for one of the top spots, the number is low. Still a genuine effort is being made to develop a pipeline of diversity “in an effort to widen the pool of candidates, the supreme court has contacted groups such as the Black Solicitors Network, the Association of Women Barristers and legal academics’ groups to try and encourage people from beyond the top ranks of the judiciary to apply.”
With 4 open spots expect at least 1 to be filled by a female candidate. The improvement of the Supreme Court will not happen over night, but the current steps are the correct ones in representing the population of the United Kingdom.