Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Highest Court in the Realm

Today, the House of Lords handed down the last judicial decisions it will ever make.  That is because the UK is getting a supreme court.  Since the Middle Ages, the highest court in the UK was the House of Lords, which is also the second legislative house of Parliament.  Twelve senior judges sit in the Lords and handle all the legal appeals that come before the body and these twelve jurists are known as the Law Lords.  These twelve, and only these twelve, are allowed to rule on judicial cases.  As members of the House of Lords, the twelve Law Lords can participate in debates and vote on legislation.  However, most wait until after they retire from the legal profession to participate in the legislative affairs in the Lords.

All of that changes in October when the UK Supreme Court starts to hear cases.  In accordance with the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005, The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom will take over the legal function of the House of Lords.  The current Law Lords will become the first justices and succeeding justice will be appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister.  One key feature will be that, unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, proceedings of the UK Supreme Court will televised.

Every political system has its anachronisms(The goings on in the U.S. Senate come to mind), but some countries seem to be able to reform their systems when the need arises.  The UK seems just such a country.

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