|Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom|
11 January 2012 –9 December 2018
|Nominated by||Kenneth Clarke|
|Preceded by||The Lord Collins of Mapesbury|
|Succeeded by||The Lord Sales|
|Non-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong|
18 December 2019
|Appointed by||Carrie Lam|
|Born||9 December 1948|
|Spouse(s)||Teresa Sumption, née Whelan|
|Children||2 daughters; 1 son|
|Alma mater||Magdalen College, Oxford|
|Chinese||岑 耀 信|
Jonathan Philip Chadwick Sumption, Lord Sumption,(born 9 December 1948), is a British author, medieval historian and former senior judge who sat on the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom between 2012 and 2018. Sumption was sworn in as a Justice of the Supreme Court on 11 January 2012, succeeding Lawrence Collins, Baron Collins of Mapesbury. Exceptionally, he was appointed to the Supreme Court directly from the practising Bar, without having been a full-time judge. He retired from the Supreme Court on 9 December 2018 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Sumption is well known for his role as a barrister in many legal cases. They include appearances in the Hutton Inquiry on HM Government's behalf,in the Three Rivers case, his representation of former Cabinet Minister Stephen Byers and the Department for Transport in the Railtrack private shareholders' action against the British Government in 2005, for defending HM Government in an appeal hearing brought by Binyam Mohamed, and for successfully defending Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in a private lawsuit brought by Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky.
A former academic, Sumption was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2003 New Year Honoursand is also known for writing a substantial narrative history of the Hundred Years' War, so far in four volumes. Sumption has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (FRHistS) and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London (FSA).
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sumption criticised lockdowns and associated British government policies.
Jonathan Sumption was born on 9 December 1948. He is the eldest of the four children of Anthony Sumption,a decorated naval officer and barrister, and Hilda Hedigan; their marriage was dissolved in 1979. He was educated at Eton College, where at 15 he was at the bottom of his class. He read Medieval History at Magdalen College, Oxford, from 1967 to 1970, graduating with a first. He was elected a fellow of Magdalen College, teaching and writing books on medieval history from 1971 to 1975 before leaving to pursue a career in law. Called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1975, he then pursued a successful legal practice in commercial law.
In the 1970s, Sumption served as an adviser to the Conservative MP and Cabinet Minister Keith Joseph.In 1974 Joseph and Margaret Thatcher together founded the Centre for Policy Studies to act as a think tank for the Conservative Party, and Sumption became one of its earliest employees, working as a speechwriter for Joseph. Sumption and Joseph co-wrote a 1979 book, Equality, seeking to show that "no convincing arguments for an equal society have ever been advanced" and that "no such society has ever been successfully created".
In the late 1970s Sumption was a regular contributor to The Sunday Telegraph .
Sumption was appointed Queen's Counsel (QC) in 1986 at the relatively young age of 38, and elected a Bencher of the Inner Temple in 1991. He has served as a Deputy High Court Judge in the Chancery Division, and a Judge of the Court of Appeal of Jerseyand the Guernsey Court of Appeal.
He was a member of the Judicial Appointments Commission, until his appointment to the Supreme Court. Sumption was joint head of Brick Court Chambers.
On 30 November 2007, when a practising barrister, Sumption successfully represented himself before Mr Justice Collins in a judicial review application in the Administrative Court concerning proposed development near his home at Greenwich.
The Guardian once described him as being a member of the "million-a-year club", the elite group of barristers earning over a million pounds a year.In a letter to The Guardian in 2001, he compared his "puny £1.6 million a year" to the vastly larger amounts that comparable individuals in business, sports and entertainment are paid.
For a four-week trial (and all the preparatory work) in the UK in 2005 he charged £800,000 to represent HM Government in the largest class action in the UK, brought by 49,500 private shareholders of the collapsed national railway infrastructure company Railtrack.The Government had money and reputation at stake, the case examining some of the actions of HM Government, especially of former Transport Secretary Stephen Byers. Byers became the only former Cabinet Minister to be cross-examined in the High Court in relation to his actions in modern times: the British Government won the case.
Sumption earned £7.8 million for his defence of Roman Abramovich in the 2012 case Berezovsky v Abramovich . This is believed to be the highest fee ever earned in British legal history.
On 4 May 2011 Sumption's appointment as a Justice of the Supreme Court was announced.Upon his subsequent swearing-in on 11 January 2012, he assumed the title of Lord Sumption pursuant to a Royal Warrant (by which all members of the Supreme Court, even if they do not hold a peerage title, are accorded the style of "Lord" for life). Sumption was sworn of the Privy Council on 14 December 2011 in advance of his joining the Court, whose Justices also serve as members of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. He retired from the Supreme Court on 9 December 2018.
Sumption is the first lawyer appointed to the Supreme Court without previously serving as a full-time judge since its inception in 2009. There were only five such appointments as Law Lords to the Court's predecessor, the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords.Two were Scots lawyers: Lord Macmillan in 1930 and Lord Reid in 1948; the others were: Lord Macnaghten (1887), Lord Carson (1921) and Lord Radcliffe (1949).
After his retirement, Sumption sat on the Supplementary Panel of the Supreme Courtfrom 13 December 2018 to 30 January 2021. He voluntary retired in 2021 because he considered it inappropriate to serve on the panel in view of his public criticisms of the government.
On 13 December 2019 Sumption was appointed as a Non-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.After making his pledge of allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR of the People’s Republic of China as part of the judicial oath, Lord Sumption officially commenced his office as a Hong Kong judge on 18 December 2019. He had previously appeared as counsel in the Court of Final Appeal in a number of cases.
Sumption's narrative history of the Hundred Years' War between England and France (of which four volumes have so far been published, between 1990 and 2015) has been widely praised as "earning a place alongside Steven Runciman's A History of the Crusades" according to Frederic Raphael, and as a work that "deploys an enormous variety of documentary material ... and interprets it with imaginative and intelligent sympathy" and is "elegantly written" (Rosamond McKitterick, Evening Standard); for Allan Massie it is "An enterprise on a truly Victorian scale ... What is most impressive about this work, apart from the author's mastery of his material and his deployment of it, is his political intelligence".
Five volumes are planned.Volume I (covering the years from the funeral of Charles IV of France in 1329 to the Surrender of Calais in 1347) was first published in 1990. Volume II (covering the years from 1347 to 1369) was published in 1999. Volume III (covering the years from 1369 to 1399) appeared in 2009. Volume IV (covering the years from 1399 to 1422) appeared in 2015, the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.
Sumption has been praised for a clipped and polished prose style, which he credits to his unwillingness to employ cliché. He admires Gibbon but points out "if anybody wrote like him today they’d be dismissed as a pompous fart".
Sumption has been described as "conservative neo-liberal and libertarian."In 1974, he worked with Conservative MP Keith Joseph at the Centre for Policy Studies, a Conservative Party think-tank. However, he was a Labour supporter at the time and later voted for Tony Blair.
He has said that an attempt to rapidly achieve gender equality in the Supreme Court through quotas or positive discrimination could end up discouraging the best applicants, as they would no longer believe that the process would select on merit, and "have appalling consequences for justice".He has criticised the judicial appointments process in the United States, where politicians quiz judicial appointees on their views, as "discreditable" and described former Attorney General for England & Wales Geoffrey Cox's proposal for a similar system as, "one of the most ill-thought-out ideas ever to emerge from a resentful government frustrated by its inability to do whatever it likes".
He has criticised the historical curriculum in English schools as "appallingly narrow", warning that by forcing English schoolchildren to study 1918–1945 in isolation they "are being taught about Germany and Europe during its most aberrant period".He believes that history should not be apologised for once perpetrators of injustices are no longer alive, describing apologies for events such as the Irish Famine and the Armenian Genocide as "morally worthless", although saying that, "we have a duty to understand why things happened as they did" and there are "lessons to be learned". In the wake of Black Lives Matter activity following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 in Minneapolis, the United States, Sumption criticised the removal of monuments, arguing that people of the past did not share the values of the present and calling it "an irrational and absurd thing to do".
He voted to remain in the European Union in the 2016 referendum, describing the decision to leave as, "a serious mistake that will do lasting damage to our economy"and that, "Britain will be dominated by the European Union whether we belong to it or not". Nevertheless, he believed there were strong arguments for Brexit on the grounds of national sovereignty and identity. He said that leavers, "were not mad. They are not irrational, not naive and have not been deceived". He wrote that, "All of these patronising explanations of their decision seems to me to be mere attempts to evade unpalatable truths."
Sumption has written in detail about his concerns regarding the relationship between the judiciary and politics in several lectures and books, most notably his books Trials of the State: Law and the Decline of Politics (2019) and Law in a Time of Crisis (2021). He argues that since the 1960s, but particularly in recent years, the courts have undermined the political processes and institutions of parliament by judging issues that should be decided by elected politicians and ministers. He specifically critiques the expansion of judicial review, saying that, "It has tended to intrude into to areas that belong to parliament and ministers answerable to parliament",and has criticised the interpretative powers conferred by the Human Rights Act 1998. He argues that political figures are more democratically accountable to the public for decisions they make, unlike judges who are unelected and difficult to remove from office. He has criticised the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which interprets and adjudicates on the European Convention on Human Rights. He has compared the values of the ECHR and those of the post-war dictatorships of eastern Europe, stating that "they both employ the concept of democracy as a generalised term of approval for a set of political values". He describes the text of the Convention as "wholly admirable" but argues that the Strasburg court has interpreted and developed the rights very broadly to go beyond their original meaning and to the extent that the rights cover issues which are properly the remit of elected legislatures. He has criticised the "living instrument" doctrine, particularly regarding Article 8 of the Convention, which he describes as, "the most striking example of this kind of mission creep." He has said that if there was no significant change in the approach of the Strasburg court then he would support withdrawing from the Convention.
Sumption has been highly critical of the British government's lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic on civil libertarian grounds, seeing them as a slippery slope,while also criticising the legal basis for their enactment and the enforceability of COVID-19 control measures. He has also questioned whether the virus is serious enough to justify restrictive measures, while also arguing that the effects of lockdowns may be worse than the effects of the actual virus, a view which has minimal scientific or evidentiary support.
On 17 January 2021, Sumption appeared on The Big Questions to discuss the question of whether the lockdown was "punishing too many for the greater good", and said (with reference to the medical concept of quality-adjusted life years) that "I don’t accept that all lives are of equal value. My children’s and my grandchildren’s life is worth much more than mine because they’ve got a lot more of it ahead". When a cancer patient taking part in the debate said that he was saying that her life was "not valuable", Sumption interrupted her, saying: "I didn’t say your life was not valuable, I said it was less valuable."Health experts have criticised his views, stating that the concept of "quality adjusted life years" is primarily useful for debates on the allocation of scarce healthcare resources, and may not be useful for discussion of a nationwide lockdown.
In July 2021, Full Fact concluded in a fact-checking article that Sumption had "made several mistakes with Covid-19 data when talking about the disease" on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. This included his belief that many recorded COVID-19 deaths were people who had the virus but had died of unrelated causes, that people who had died of COVID-19 "would probably have died within a year after", and that only "hundreds" of people without pre-existing medical conditions in the UK had died of COVID-19 (the true figure is 15,883 in England alone).
Sumption met Teresa Whelan at his sixth birthday party and they later married shortly after he graduated from Oxford. They have two daughters, one son, and five grandchildren. He lives in Greenwich and has a second home, a chateau in the village of Berbiguières in the south of France.
Sumption speaks French and Italian fluently, and reads Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Catalan, and Latin.He "rarely learned them using guides, instead I preferred to muddle on through a text with a dictionary by my side".
An opera lover, he serves as a director of the English National Opera and as a governor of the Royal Academy of Music.
Two books are dedicated to Sumption's contribution to private and public law respectively.The following cases are an excerpt of his contribution to the law:
Thomas Henry Bingham, Baron Bingham of Cornhill,, was an eminent British judge who was successively Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice and Senior Law Lord. He was described as the greatest lawyer of his generation. Baroness Hale of Richmond observed that his pioneering role in the formation of the United Kingdom Supreme Court may be his most important and long-lasting legacy. Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers regarded Bingham as "one of the two great legal figures of my lifetime in the law". Lord Hope remembered Bingham as "the greatest jurist of our time".
Mary Howarth Arden, Baroness Mance,, known professionally as Lady Arden of Heswall, is an English judge.
Graham John Virgo is an English legal academic, barrister and university administrator. He is Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Professor of English Private Law at the University of Cambridge. Frequently cited in the English courts and those of other common law jurisdictions, he is known for his contributions to the law of restitution and the teaching of law.
James Arthur David Hope, Baron Hope of Craighead, is a retired Scottish judge who served as the first Deputy President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom from 2009 until his retirement in 2013, having previously been the Second Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary. He served as Convenor of the Crossbench peers in the House of Lords from 2015 to 2019.
Donald James Nicholls, Baron Nicholls of Birkenhead, was a British barrister who became a Law Lord.
David Edmond Neuberger, Baron Neuberger of Abbotsbury is an English judge. He served as President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom from 2012 to 2017. He was a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary until the House of Lords' judicial functions were transferred to the new Supreme Court in 2009, at which point he became Master of the Rolls, the second most senior judge in England and Wales. Neuberger was appointed to the Supreme Court, as its President, in 2012. He now serves as a Non-Permanent Judge of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal and the Chair of the High-Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom.
Andrew Burrows, Lord Burrows, QC is a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Professor of the Law of England and senior research fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. His work centres on private law. He is the main editor of the compendium English Private Law and the convenor of the advisory group that produced A Restatement of the English Law of Unjust Enrichment as well as textbooks on English contract law. He was appointed to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom on 2 June 2020; he was the first Supreme Court judge to be appointed directly from academia.
Robert Walker, Baron Walker of Gestingthorpe,, is an English barrister and former Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. He also serves as a Non-Permanent Judge of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.
Sir Stephen Sedley is a British lawyer. He worked as a judge of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales from 1999 to 2011 and is currently a visiting professor at the University of Oxford.
Roger Grenfell Toulson, Lord Toulson, PC was a British lawyer and judge who served as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
United Kingdom administrative law is part of UK constitutional law that is designed through judicial review to hold executive power and public bodies accountable under the law. A person can apply to the High Court to challenge a public body's decision if they have a "sufficient interest", within three months of the grounds of the cause of action becoming known. By contrast, claims against public bodies in tort or contract are usually limited by the Limitation Act 1980 to a period of 6 years. Almost any public body, or private bodies exercising public functions, can be the target of judicial review, including a government department, a local council, any Minister, the Prime Minister, or any other body that is created by law. The only public body whose decisions cannot be reviewed is Parliament, when it passes an Act. Otherwise, a claimant can argue that a public body's decision was unlawful in five main types of case: (1) it exceeded the lawful power of the body, used its power for an improper purpose, or acted unreasonably, (2) it violated a legitimate expectation, (3) failed to exercise relevant and independent judgement, (4) exhibited bias or a conflict of interest, or failed to give a fair hearing, and (5) violated a human right. As a remedy, a claimant can ask for the public body's decisions to be declared void and quashed, or it could ask for an order to make the body do something, or prevent the body from acting unlawfully. A court may also declare the parties' rights and duties, give an injunction, or compensation could also be payable in tort or contract.
Robert John Reed, Baron Reed of Allermuir, is a Scottish judge who has been President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom since January 2020. He was the principal judge in the Commercial Court in Scotland before being promoted to the Inner House of the Court of Session in 2008. He is an authority on human rights law in Scotland and elsewhere; he served as one of the UK's ad hoc judges at the European Court of Human Rights. He is also a Non-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong.
Stone & Rolls Ltd v Moore Stephens UKHL 39 is a leading case relevant for UK company law and the law on fraud and ex turpi causa non oritur actio. The House of Lords decided by a majority of three to two that where the director and sole shareholder of a closely held private company deceived the auditors with fraud carried out on all creditors, subsequently the creditors of the insolvent company would be barred from suing the auditors for negligence from the shoes of the company. The Lords reasoned that where the company was only identifiable with one person, the fraud of that person would be attributable to the company, and the "company" could not rely on its own illegal fraud when bringing a claim for negligence against any auditors. It was the last case to be argued before the House of Lords.
Illegality in English law is a potential ground in English contract law, tort, trusts or UK company law for a court to refuse to enforce an obligation. The illegality of a transaction, either because of public policy under the common law, or because of legislation, potentially means no action directly concerning the deal will be heard by the courts. The doctrine is reminiscent of the Latin phrase "Ex turpi causa non oritur actio", meaning "no cause of action arises from a wrong". The primary problem arising when courts refuse to enforce an agreement is the extent to which an innocent party may recover any property already conveyed through the transaction. Hence, illegality raises important questions for English unjust enrichment law.
Lucasfilm Limited v Ainsworth was a 2011 court ruling by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. The case concerned an intellectual property dispute over the production of Lucasfilm's Stormtrooper costumes by model maker Andrew Ainsworth. Mr Ainsworth argued that the helmets, which he continues to manufacture and sell, were functional props covered only by design right legislation, as opposed to Lucasfilm's assertion that they were sculptures or art which fall under copyright law. Design right protection is retained for 15 or 10 years, whereas copyright protection in this case would last 70 years after the death of the author.
Prest v Petrodel Resources Ltd UKSC 34,  2 AC 415 is a leading UK company law decision of the UK Supreme Court concerning the nature of the doctrine of piercing the corporate veil, resulting trusts and equitable proprietary remedies in the context of English family law.
Société Générale, London Branch v Geys  UKSC 63 is a UK labour law case, concerning wrongful dismissal. The Supreme Court's decision was a significant ruling in regard to the competing automatic and elective theories of contractual repudiation.
In public law, abrogation is the proposing away of a right, power or value, by a public body in delegating power or failing to carry out a responsibility or duty. The abrogation of such a responsibility or duty, unless required by primary legislation would amount to an unconstitutional delegation of power to a foreign government or other sovereign power.
Thomas Paul Wentworth Grant QC is an English barrister and author. He has been appointed Visiting Professor of Politics and Law at Gresham College for 2020–2021.
Sir Michael John Fordham,, styled The Hon. Mr Justice Fordham, is a judge of the High Court of England and Wales assigned to the Queen's Bench Division. He was appointed as a Justice of the High Court on 13 January 2020.
Section 17, Part V of Schedule 2, and Part I of Schedule 3
As a Hong Kong judge...