Her Majesty's Court of Appeal is the second most senior court in the English legal system (with only the judges of the House of Lords above it).
The Court is divided into two Divisions: the Civil Division and the Criminal Division. The Master of the Rolls presides over the Civil Division, while the Lord Chief Justice does the same in the Criminal Division. Since the Lord Chief Justice is also the highest judge of a different court, he is assisted by a Lord Justice of Appeal with the title of "Vice-President of the Criminal Division."
In the Civil Division, the Master of the Rolls or a Lord Justice of Appeal may hear appeals. However, in the Criminal Division, in addition the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Justices of Appeal, a Circuit Judge may also hear an appeal. (The mixing of the Court of Appeal and the High Court is permissible since, technically, both are parts of one larger court referred to as the Supreme Court of Judicature. The Crown Court is the third member court of the Supreme Court.)
Any present or former Lord Chancellor may sit in the Court of Appeal (though this appears to have become obsolete), as may the Lord Chief Justice, the Master of the Rolls, the President of the Family Division and the Vice-Chancellor of the Chancery Division. There may be at least a further 35 judges of the rank of Lord Justice of Appeal.
Any former Court of Appeal or High Court judge and any present High Court judge may be requested to sit in the Court of Appeal, unless prohibited by reason of age under the Judicial Pensions and Retirement Act 1993. Only a former judge may refuse the request.
Because the volume of cases which come to the Court of Appeal is higher than come to the House of Lords it has been said that the Master of the Rolls is the most influential judge in England. Certainly, the most famous judge in recent legal history, Lord Denning was Master of the Rolls for many years.
See List of Lords Justices of Appeal of England and Wales for the current members of the Court.
Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13