Liz Truss rules out US-style appointment hearings for Supreme Court judges

Posted On: 
1st March 2017

Liz Truss has rejected calls for Supreme Court judges to be subject to US-style parliamentary hearings before they are appointed. 

Liz Truss before the Lords Constitution Committee
Parliament TV

The Justice Secretary said it would “muddy the waters” and serve to politicise judicial appointments.

The idea was proposed by Tory Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith after the Supreme Court hearings about whether the Prime Minister needed parliamentary authorisation to trigger Article 50 and begin the process of leaving the European Union.

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The court found that MPs and peers had to be consulted, leading to Mr Duncan Smith to accuse the judges of trying to “tell Parliament how to run its business”.  

He said it was time to “lift the veil of secrecy surrounding the interests and backgrounds” of Supreme Court justices, suggesting pre-appointment hearings for MPs.

When asked about the idea this morning, Ms Truss said greater openness about how the court works and how appointments are made were a “better way of making sure the Court is accountable to the public for what it does”.

“I’m not in favour of pre-selection hearings because what I fear they will do is lead us down a more political route,” the Lord Chancellor told the Lords Constitution Committee.

“To compare it to other countries that have written constitutions is wrong and what I’d like to see is, post-selection, it is important that senior justices, Supreme Court justices appear before parliamentary committees, talk to the media, talk to the public.

“But I think it would muddy the waters if we were to have questions about the political attitudes of the judiciary.”

After the initial Supreme Court case was heard in December, Mr Duncan Smith wrote a piece in the Daily Mail highlighting the “gruelling hearings” in the Senate that US judges were put through.

“Since our Supreme Court is modelled on that of America (albeit with some differences), I believe it's time for us to introduce a process of Parliamentary hearings to examine candidates for the Supreme Court when a vacancy has to be filled,” he argued.