This month, the Supreme Court appointed its first Welsh Judge – Pontypridd-born Lord Justice Lloyd-Jones (LJ-LJ). Our commercial property trainee solicitor, Ellie Shanahan, looks at the latest update following his appointment.
On 2nd October, LJ-LJ took his oath of office, in both English and Welsh, and was sworn into the court – making him the first Welsh judge appointed to the Supreme Court. Before that, he was the presiding judge on the Welsh circuit, appointed to the Court of Appeal in 2012, and Chairman of the Law Commission.
Celebrating LJ-LJ as ‘a Welsh voice for the Supreme Court’, the Welsh Government's senior law officer, Mick Antoniw, welcomed the appointment as a ‘historic day for Wales, and another important step in Wales' devolution journey’.
Speaking at the Legal Wales Conference in Swansea this September, LJ-LJ gave a speech called, ‘Developing Legal Wales’. During this speech, he called for a new Institute of Welsh law, saying it needed to be readily available to the people of Wales.
LJ-LJ wants Westminster to consider Welsh law, and how powers that are devolved are changing the way the Welsh Assembly is run.
He makes the point that Welsh law is accelerating rapidly – particularly under the Wales Act 2017, with more powers being devolved. An Institute of Welsh Law would help coordinate and consolidate the work of various academic and other institutions. LJ-LJ suggested the Welsh government could help efforts to set up such a body, stating that professional bodies, law schools and the Judicial College would be ‘ideal collaborators’. In his speech, he cited the Justice Wales Network as being a precedent for such coordination.
While a completely devolved Wales seems a long way off, the progressive nature of devolution poses many challenges for the unified legal jurisdiction of ‘England and Wales’. The push for a separate Welsh jurisdiction has gained some traction in the past year, (see our article, ‘For Wales, see England’), and LJ-LJ’s opinion will be a significant contribution to the debate.
Having a Supreme Court Judge – particularly one heralded as ‘a proud Welshman, enriching the legal life of Wales’ – as an ambassador for recognising the importance of Wales is a significant milestone.