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United Kingdom: New Supreme Court

(Aug. 18, 2009) The last judgments of the Law Lords of the United Kingdom took place on July 30, 2009. This will be a significant date in Britain's constitutional history, as it will mark the end of the judicial function of the House of Lords. The House of Lords will from here on have only a legislative function. The Law Lords, also known as the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, will in future be known as the Justices, and will conduct their affairs in the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, which will be situated away from Parliament and the Palace of Westminster, across Parliament Square in the old Middlesex Guildhall.

The House of Lords' judicial function has up until now included hearing appeals from the lower courts. The Supreme Court will have exactly the same powers. In addition, the Supreme Court will have jurisdiction over devolution issues, which is currently exercised by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The Privy Council, which acts as the final Court of Appeal for certain Commonwealth countries and the Crown Dependencies, will also move from its location in Downing Street to the new Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court was established in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, under which the Court is designed to be an independent institution, presided over by independently appointed Law Lords. The focus of the reform, created under the Blair administration, was to increase transparency in the top levels of the judicial system and in Parliament. The first session of the Supreme Court will be held on October, 1, 2009; there will be 12 members of the Court, who will be appointed by a Judicial Appointments Commission that has taken over the responsibility previously held by the Lord Chancellor and the Department for Constitutional Affairs. (Parliamentary News, MONTHLY UPDATE FOR STAFF, Issue 6, July 2009; House of Lords, Red Benches, NEWS LETTER FOR MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS. No.13, July 14, 2009; The College of Arms Newsletter (College of Arms, London, England), Dec. 2008, available at; The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 (Commencement No. 11) Order 2009, OPSI [Office of Public Sector Information],; &Justice of the UK Supreme Court, No.10.GOV.UK, Apr. 20, 2009, available at