The Right Honourable
1 November 1875
Judicial Appointments Commission
UK Monarch on recommendation of Prime Minister and Lord Chancellor, who are in turn given recommendations by a selection panel.
The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales is the head of the judiciary and President of the Courts of England and Wales. Historically, he was the second-highest judge of the Courts of England and Wales, after the Lord Chancellor, but became the top judge as a result of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, which removed the judicial functions from the office of Lord Chancellor, altered the duties of the Lord Chief Justice and changed the relationship between the two offices. The Lord Chief Justice is also the nominal President of the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal and Head of Criminal Justice, but can appoint another judge to these positions under the 2005 Act.
The Lord Chief Justice's equivalent in Scotland is the Lord President of the Court of Session, who also holds the post of Lord Justice-General in the High Court of Justiciary. There is also a Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, successor to the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland of the pre-Partition era.
The current Lord Chief Justice is Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, who took over the role on 1 October 2013.
Originally, each of the three high common law courts, the King's Bench, the Court of Common Pleas, and the Court of the Exchequer, had its own chief justice: the Lord Chief Justice, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer. Although the Court of the King's (or Queen's) Bench had existed since 1234, the title of chief justice was not used until 1268. In the intermediary period, one of the justices would be considered the senior judge, and hold a position similar to that later held by the chief justice. The three courts became divisions of the High Court in 1875, and following the deaths of the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chief Baron in 1880, the three were merged into a single division under the last Chief Justice of Common Pleas creating a single Lord Chief Justice of England.
The suffix "and Wales", now found in statutes and elsewhere, was unilaterally appended by Lord Bingham of Cornhill between 1996 and 2000.
Constitutional Reform Act 2005
The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 (CRA) made the Lord Chief Justice the President of the Courts of England and Wales, vesting the office with many of the powers formerly held by the Lord Chancellor. While the Lord Chief Justice retains the role of President of the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal, the CRA separated the role of President of the Queen's Bench Division. The first Lord Chief Justice to act as head of the judiciary under the provisions of the CRA was Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers. The CRA also provides that the Lord Chief Justice is chosen by a specially appointed committee convened by the Judicial Appointments Commission.