Britain Appoints First Woman Law Lord

By Kenney, Sally J. | Judicature, January/February 2004 | Go to article overview

Britain Appoints First Woman Law Lord


Kenney, Sally J., Judicature


Twenty-three years after President Ronald Reagan appointed Sandra Day O'Connor as the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (and Lord Chancellor) Lord Falconer announced on October 23, 2003, that Dame Brenda Hale would become Britain's first woman Law Lord upon the Honorable Lord Millett's retirement in January 2004 and one of 12 judges to sit on a proposed new Supreme Court, slated to commence in 2005.1

The appointment of a woman, and of Hale in particular, was overdue. Legal journalists and court watchers had long tapped Hale to be the first woman Law Lord, and many felt the pressure on the former Lord Chancellor Irvine to appoint her was overwhelming. Yet, in July of 2002, he appointed Robert Walker instead. (Under the current system, the Lord Chancellor appoints judges with no legislative confirmation or review.) In its 1992 manifesto, Labour had supported policy proposals to create a judicial nominating commission and to diversify a strikingly homogeneous bench-yet the party had delivered on neither pledge after more than six years in office, despite pressures from distinguished barrister and part-time judge Cherie Booth (wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair), Solicitor General Harriet Harman, and other leading female members of the cabinet. The way was paved for change when Prime Minister Blair sacked Irvine in June 2003.

A breath of fresh air

Fifty-nine-year-old Hale is a breath of fresh air. She is a feminist or, as the conservative British press calls her, a "hard-line" or "radical feminist." (In such papers, modifiers are required. For example "Left" must always be preceded by "hard." Those who prefer alliteration have opted for "ferocious feminist"-papers more supportive have settled for "feisty feminist.") Court reformers are hopeful her accession is a sign that the unduly circumscribed pool from which senior judges are chosen is enlarging. Sir Thomas Legg, permanent secretary at the Lord Chancellor's Department when Hale was first appointed to the high court in 1994, dismisses criticisms of Hale's ability by senior judges-judges whose " secret soundings" determine who rises to higher office-as contempt for Hale's background as a legal academic and law commissioner rather than oral advocate and low regard for the field of family law. (Commercial law holds the highest status and dominates the higher judiciary.) Many believe it is precisely this background that makes her voice essential on the country's highest court.

Hale's path to the bench differs from the rigid path followed by her male colleagues. Hailing from Yorkshire, Hale graduated with the single-starred first class degree of her year from Girton College, Cambridge, and also received the top exam score on her Bar finals. She began her legal career as a law lecturer at Manchester University, where she rose to the rank of professor. As Brenda Hoggett, she partnered with Susan Atkins to author one of the first legal texts on women and the law in Britain (Women and the Law [Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984]). In 1984, she became the youngest person and first woman appointed to the Law Commission (the official body of law reform), where she championed children's rights (resulting in the Children Act), domestic violence legislation (which became the Family Act of 1996), no-fault divorce (still not the law), and the rights of the mentally incapacitated. Such efforts earned her the labels of "anti-men" and "anti-marriage" by the right-wing press, particularly the Daily Mail, which, as one journalist dubbed it, has made her a "totemic hate figure" (Guardian, January 9, 2004).

Hale became a QC (Queen's Counsel) in 1989 and served as a recorder or part-time judge until 1993, when she became the first academic lawyer to be appointed to the High Court bench as a judge on the family division. She won The Times Woman of Achievement Award in 1999 and was appointed to the Court of Appeal (where she leaves just 2 female judges out of 36). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Britain Appoints First Woman Law Lord
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.