High Court judge (England and Wales)

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Red-robed High Court judges in procession at Llandaff Cathedral in 2013

A Justice of the High Court, commonly known as a ‘High Court judge’, is a judge of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales, and represents the third highest level of judge in the courts of England and Wales. High Court judges are referred to as puisne (pronounced puny) judges. High Court Judges wear red and black robes.[1]

Title and form of address

Upon appointment all High Court judges are knighted (usually as a Knight Bachelor), or in the case of female judges made Dames Commander of the Order of the British Empire. So, for example, Nigel Bridge became Sir Nigel Bridge and Brenda Hale became Dame Brenda Hale DBE.

In court, a High Court judge is referred to as My Lord or Your Lordship if male, or as My Lady or Your Ladyship if female. High Court judges use the title in office of Mr Justice for men or, normally, Mrs Justice for women, even if unmarried. When, however, Dame Alison Russell was appointed in 2014, she took the title "Ms Justice Russell". The style of The Honourable (or The Hon) is also used during office. For example, Sir Joseph Bloggs would be referred to as The Hon Mr Justice Bloggs Kt. and Dame Jane Bloggs DBE as The Hon Mrs Justice Bloggs DBE, for as long as they continue to hold office. When there is already or has until recently been a judge with the same (or a confusingly similar) surname as a new appointee, the new judge will often use a first name as part of his or her official title. Many judges have done this, such as Mr Justice Christopher Clarke (Sir Christopher Simon Courternay Stephenson Clarke) and Mr Justice Roderick Evans (Sir David Roderick Evans).

When referring to a High Court judge in a legal context, the judge is identified by use of the surname (or first name and surname if appropriate), followed by the letter 'J'. For example, Mr Justice Bloggs or Mrs Justice Bloggs would be referred to as "Bloggs J". Where several judges are listed the double letters 'JJ' are used; for example, "Bloggs, Smith and Jones JJ".


High Court judges, as with the other Senior Judiciary are appointed by The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister and Lord Chancellor. Under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 a new Judicial Appointments Commission has removed the appointment of judges from the political arena. High Court judges, as with other judges, are now appointed on the basis of open competition.

High Court judges, as with all judges in England and Wales, hold office during good behaviour; this is laid down in the Bill of Rights 1689. A High Court judge can only be removed by the Queen upon an Address of both Houses of Parliament.

Formerly, High Court judges could only be appointed from among barristers of at least 10 years' standing.[2] Before the qualifications changed, a typical appointee had in the region of twenty to thirty years' experience as a lawyer. Only four solicitors had been appointed as puisne judges – Michael Sachs in 1993, Lawrence Collins in 2000, Henry Hodge in 2004, and Gary Hickinbottom in 2008.[3] Collins was elevated further to the Court of Appeal in 2007 and became a law lord in 2009. Occasionally more junior members of the judiciary are elevated to this rank, such as Mr Justice Crane who was formerly a Circuit Judge and Mrs Justice Butler-Sloss (now Baroness Butler-Sloss) who was previously a Registrar in the Principal Registry of the Family Division of the High Court. A few distinguished academics have also made it on to the High Court bench, including Mrs Justice Hale (now Baroness Hale of Richmond) and, more recently, Mr Justice Beatson.[4] In 2004, calls for increased diversity among the judiciary were recognised and the qualification period was changed[5][6] so that, as of 21 July 2008, a potential High Court Judge must satisfy the judicial-appointment eligibility condition on a seven-year basis.[7]

While High Court judges all have the same jurisdiction, an appointee is in practice allocated to one of the High Court's three divisions: The Chancery Division, the Queen's Bench Division and the Family Division.

See also


  1. High Court Judge. judiciary.gov.uk 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2012. Archived here.
  2. Supreme Court Act 1981, s.10(3)(c) (as enacted). (Now called the Senior Courts Act 1981.)
  3. Chellel, Kit (19 September 2008). "Former McKenna lawyer appointed to High Court". TheLawyer.com. Retrieved 21 August 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Law professor appointed to High Court". University of Cambridge. 27 September 2002. Retrieved 21 August 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Increasing Diversity in the Judiciary". Department for Constitutional Affairs. October 2004. Retrieved 5 March 2008. CP 25/04<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Explanatory Notes to Tribunals, Courts And Enforcement Act 2007". Office of Public Service Information. 2007. Retrieved 5 March 2008. paras.281–316<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Senior Courts Act 1981, s.10(3)(c).

External links