M’LADY JUSTICE CLERK: Lady Dorrian becomes first female judge appointed to position of Lord Justice Clerk – second most powerful judge in Scotland

14 Apr

First female judge appointed Lord Justice Clerk. FOR THE first time in the history of Scotland’s legal system, a female judge has been appointed to the role of Lord Justice Clerk, the second most powerful position in Scotland’s judiciary.

Lady Leonna June Dorrian (58), who is currently a judge of the inner house of the Court of Session – will take up her appointment as Lord Justice Clerk on 26 April 2016, the day of her installation.

The post of Lord Justice Clerk comes with a salary of £213,125 a year.

The Lord Justice Clerk also holds the office of President of the Second Division of the Inner House of the Court of Session, and, by virtue of the post, is Chair of the Scottish Sentencing Council.

The appointment of Lady Dorrian to the second most powerful judicial position comes after the recent appointment of the previous holder of the office of Lord Justice Clerk – Lord Carloway – to the top role of Lord President & Lord Justice General of the Court of Session.

During the six month search for a new Lord President which took place after the sudden retirement of Lord Brian Gill in May, 2015 – Lady Dorrian was appointed to a selection panel convened by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to interview applicants for the position of Lord President, reported in further detail here: To play the President – Hunt begins for Scotland’s next top judge

The panel, which comprised Sir Muir Russell – Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, Mrs Deirdre Fulton – Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, Rt Hon Lord Reed – Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom,  Rt Hon Lady Dorrian – Senator, Inner House of the Court of Session – concluded their deliberations with a recommendation Lord Carloway (real name Colin Sutherland) be appointed to the position of Lord President – reported in further detail here: Top judge of Parliament House: Lord Carloway appointed as Scotland’s Lord President

With the ascension of Lord Carloway to the post of Lord President, the move required the appointment of a new Lord Justice Clerk.

A selection panel to interview candidates for the role was again convened by the First Minister earlier in January 2016 – the panel comprising of Rt Hon Lord Carloway – Lord President, Sir Muir Russell – Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, Alison Mitchell – Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, The Hon Lady Stacey – Senator of the College of Justice to select a candidate for the position of Lord Justice Clerk.

Lady Dorrian was then nominated by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to Her Majesty the Queen – after taking account of recommendations made by the selection panel constituted under the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 .

The panel which made the recommendations included Lord Carloway – who had been nominated for the position of Lord President by the previous panel which Lady Dorrian was a member of.

Lady Dorrian – Biography:

Lady Dorrian is a graduate of the University of Aberdeen and was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1981 before becoming Standing Junior Counsel to the Health and Safety Executive and Commission between 1987 and 1994.

She served as Advocate Depute between 1988 and 1991, and as Standing Junior to the Department of Energy between 1991 and 1994. In 1994, she was also appointed Queen’s Counsel. Between 1997 and 2001 she was a member of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. Lady Dorrian was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Courts in 2005, having served as a temporary judge since 2002. She was appointed to the Inner House in November 2012.


 How judges select Scotland’s judges – in secret The selection panel for the office of Lord President – of which Lady Dorrian was a member – considered five candidates for the position of Scotland’s top judge – according to papers released by the Scottish Government in response to a Freedom of Information request by the media.

While there was significant speculation during 2015 that a female judge would be appointed to the top judicial post of Lord President, the unpredicted shift away from a male only top judge did not happen this time around.

Responding to queries, the Scottish Government refused to disclose the genders & diversity information relating to any of the candidates for the top job, citing privacy concerns.

Written exchanges between civil servants and the selection panel reveal a short listing meeting was held on 1 September 2015. The panel considered that two applicants Lord Carloway  [Redacted] merited an interview on the basis of the quality of their applications.

The panel agreed that given the level of appointment, candidates needed to be able to demonstrate that they met the criteria to an exceptional degree [Redacted].

The content of the selection panel’s report recommending Lord Carloway for the nomination of Lord President, was completely censored by the Scottish Government.

Emails between Scottish Government show First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had decided on Lord Carloway’s nomination as Lord President around 18 November 2015. Lord Carloway’s appointment as Lord President was finally made public a month later in December 2015.

Scotland’s judiciary faces a testing time as calls grow for judges to apply the same levels of transparency to themselves as is required of all other branches of Government, the justice system and those in public life.


Scotland’s current Lord President – Lord Carloway is to be asked to give evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in connection with three year probe on proposals to require judges to register their interests, as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

The petition calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests containing information on judges backgrounds, their personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

The proposal to require judges to declare their interests enjoys cross party support, and was widely backed by MSPs during a full debate in the Scottish Parliament’s main chamber on 9 October 2014 – reported in full with video footage of MSPs and Scottish Ministers speaking during the Holyrood debate, here: Debating the Judges.

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations on judicial interests including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary


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