Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales

Last updated

Lord Chief Justice
of England and Wales
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg
The Judiciary of England and Wales
The Lord Burnett of Maldon

since 2 October 2017
Style The Right Honourable
Nominator Judicial Appointments Commission
Appointer Monarch of the United Kingdom,
on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor
Formation1 November 1875

The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales is the Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales and the President of the Courts of England and Wales.


Historically, the officeholder was the second-highest judge of the Courts of England and Wales, after the Lord Chancellor, but became the top judge as a result of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, which removed the judicial functions from the office of Lord Chancellor, altered the duties of the Lord Chief Justice and changed the relationship between the two offices. The Lord Chief Justice ordinarily serves as President of the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal and Head of Criminal Justice, but under the 2005 Act can appoint another judge to these positions.

The Lord Chief Justice's equivalent in Scotland is the Lord President of the Court of Session, who also holds the post of Lord Justice-General in the High Court of Justiciary. There is also a Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, successor to the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland of the pre-Partition era. For the entire United Kingdom judiciary, there is a President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, though that court does not have final jurisdiction over Scottish criminal law.

The current Lord Chief Justice is Lord Burnett of Maldon, who assumed the role on 2 October 2017.


Originally, each of the three high common law courts, the King's Bench, the Court of Common Pleas, and the Court of the Exchequer, had its own chief justice: the Lord Chief Justice, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and Chief Baron of the Exchequer. The Court of the King's (or Queen's) Bench had existed since 1234. In 1268 its foremost judge was given the title of (lord) chief justice before when one of the justices would be considered the senior judge, and fulfil an analogous role. The three courts became divisions of the High Court in 1875, and following the deaths of the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chief Baron in 1880, the three were merged into a single division (first held by the last Chief Justice of Common Pleas) creating a single Lord Chief Justice of England.

The suffix "and Wales", now found in statutes and elsewhere, was unilaterally appended by holder Lord Bingham of Cornhill between 1996 and 2000.

Constitutional Reform Act 2005

The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 (CRA) made the Lord Chief Justice the president of the Courts of England and Wales, vesting the office with many of the powers formerly held by the Lord Chancellor. While the Lord Chief Justice retains the role of President of the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal, the CRA separated the role of President of the Queen's Bench Division; the changed chief justice role was first held by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers. The CRA provides that he or she is chosen by a specially appointed committee convened by the Judicial Appointments Commission.

Lord Chief Justices of England, King's (Queen's) Bench, to 1875

PortraitLord Chief JusticeFromUntilNotes
William de Raley 12341239
Sir Stephen de Segrave 12391241
William of York 12411247
Henry of Bath 12491251
Sir Gilbert of Seagrave 12511253
Henry of Bath 12531260
Sir William of Wilton 12611263
Nicholas de Turri 12651267
Sir Robert de Briwes 12686 November 1269
Richard of Staines 6 November 12691273
Martin of Littlebury 12731274
Ralph de Hengham.jpg Ralph de Hengham 12741290
Gilbert de Thornton 12901296
Sir Roger Brabazon 1296March 1316
Sir William Inge March 131615 June 1317
Sir Henry le Scrope 15 June 1317September 1323
Hervey de Stanton September 132321 March 1324
Sir Geoffrey le Scrope 21 March 13241 May 1329
Sir Robert de Malberthorp 1 May 132928 October 1329
Sir Henry le Scrope 28 October 132919 December 1330
Sir Geoffrey le Scrope 19 December 133028 March 1332
Sir Richard de Willoughby 28 March 133220 September 1332
Sir Geoffrey le Scrope 20 September 133210 September 1333
Sir Richard de Willoughby 10 September 13331337
Sir Geoffrey le Scrope 1337October 1338
Sir Richard de Willoughby October 133821 July 1340
Sir Robert Parning 21 July 13408 January 1341
Sir William Scott 8 January 134126 November 1346
Sir William de Thorpe 26 November 134626 October 1350
Sir William de Shareshull 26 October 135024 May 1361
Sir Henry Green 24 May 136129 October 1365
Sir John Knyvet 29 October 136515 July 1372
Sir John de Cavendish 15 July 137214 June 1381murdered in the Peasants' Revolt
Sir Robert Tresilian 22 June 138117 November 1387
Sir Walter Clopton 31 January 138821 October 1400
Sir William Gascoigne 15 November 140029 March 1413
Sir William Hankford 29 March 141312 December 1423
Sir William Cheyne 21 January 142420 January 1439
Sir John Juyn 20 January 143924 March 1440
Sir John Hody 13 April 144025 January 1442
Portrait of Sir John Fortescue (1663) by William Faithorne - cropped.jpg Sir John Fortescue 25 January 144213 May 1461
Sir John Markham 13 May 146123 January 1469
Sir Thomas Billing 23 January 14695 May 1481
Sir William Hussey 7 May 14818 September 1495
Sir John Fineux 24 November 149523 January 1526
Sir John FitzJames 23 January 152621 January 1539
SirEdwardMontagu.jpg Sir Edward Montagu 21 January 15399 November 1545
Sir Richard Lyster 9 November 154521 March 1552
Sir Roger Cholmeley 21 March 15524 October 1553
Wroxeter St Andrews - Effigy of Thomas Bromley.JPG Sir Thomas Bromley 4 October 155311 June 1555
Sir William Portman 11 June 15558 May 1557
Sir Edward Saunders 8 May 155722 January 1559
Sir Robert Catlyn 22 January 15598 November 1574
SirChristopherWrayColour.jpg Sir Christopher Wray 8 November 15742 June 1592
SirJohnPopham.jpg Sir John Popham 2 June 159225 June 1607
Sir Thomas Fleming by Marcus Gheeraerts.jpg Sir Thomas Fleming 25 June 160725 October 1613
Edward Coke LCJ.jpg Sir Edward Coke 25 October 161316 November 1616
Henry Montagu, 1st Earl of Manchester by Francis Delaram.jpg Sir Henry Montagu 16 November 161629 January 1621
James Ley, 1st Earl of Marlborough.jpg Sir James Ley 29 January 162126 January 1625
Sir Randall Crewe LCJ.jpg Sir Ranulph Crewe 26 January 16255 February 1627
Nicholas Hyde LCJ.png Sir Nicholas Hyde 5 February 162724 October 1631
SirThomasRichardsonCrop.jpg Sir Thomas Richardson 24 October 16314 February 1635Died in office
John Bramston attrib Peter Lely.jpg Sir John Bramston 14 April 163531 October 1642
Sir Robert Heath LCJ.jpg Sir Robert Heath 31 October 1642October 1645
HenryRolle.jpg Sir Henry Rolle 12 October 164815 June 1655
John Glynne (1602-1666), by follower of Sir Peter Lely.jpg John Glynne 15 June 165517 January 1660Knighted in 1660
Sir Richard Newdigate 17 January 16601 October 1660
Sir Robert Foster 21 October 16604 October 1663First Chief Justice after the Restoration; died in office
Sir Robert Hyde LCJ.jpg Sir Robert Hyde 19 October 16631 May 1665Died in office
Sir John Kelynge 21 November 16659 May 1671Died in office
Sir Matthew Hale LCJ by JM Wright.jpg Sir Matthew Hale 18 May 167120 February 1676Formerly Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer 1660–1671
Sir Richard Rainsford by Gerard Soest.jpg Sir Richard Raynsford 12 April 167631 May 1678
Sir William Scroggs by John Michael Wright.jpg Sir William Scroggs 31 May 167811 April 1681
Sir Francis Pemberton(1624-1697).jpg Sir Francis Pemberton 11 April 16811682Later Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in 1683
Sir Edmund Saunders 23 January 168319 June 1683Died in office
George Lord Jeffreys LCJ by Godfrey Kneller.jpg Sir George Jeffreys
(Lord Jeffreys from 1685)
28 September 168323 October 1685Lord Chancellor 1685–1688
Sir Edward Herbert 23 October 168522 April 1687Later Chief Justice of the Common Pleas 1687–1689
SirRobertWright.jpg Sir Robert Wright 22 April 168717 April 1689Briefly Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in April 1687
Sir John Holt by Richard Van Bleeck.jpg Sir John Holt 17 April 16895 March 1710Died in office
Thomas Parker, 1st Earl of Macclesfield by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt.jpg Sir Thomas Parker
(Lord Parker from 1714)
11 March 171015 May 1718Regent of Great Britain from 1 August to 18 September 1714; later Lord Chancellor 1718–1725, created Earl of Macclesfield in 1721; impeached for corruption in 1725
Sir John Pratt by Michael Dahl.jpg Sir John Pratt 15 May 171824 February 1725Interim Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1721
Robert Raymond by John Vanderbank.jpg Sir Robert Raymond
(Lord Raymond from 1731)
2 March 172531 October 1733Previously Attorney General 1720–1724; died in office
Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke (1690-1764) by William Hoare of Bath.jpg Lord Hardwicke 31 October 17338 June 1737Previously Attorney General 1724–1733; later Lord Chancellor 1737–1756 and created Earl of Hardwicke in 1754
Sir William Lee by C.F. Barker cropped.jpg Sir William Lee 8 June 17378 April 1754Interim Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1754; died in office
Dudley Ryder after J Cranke.jpg Sir Dudley Ryder 2 May 175425 May 1756Previously Attorney General 1737–1754; died in office
William Murray, Earl of Mansfield LCJ.jpg Lord Mansfield
(Earl of Mansfield from 1776)
8 November 17564 June 1788Previously Attorney General 1754–1756; Lord Speaker in 1783
Lord Kenyon by Wm Holl.jpg Lord Kenyon 4 June 17884 April 1802Previously Attorney General 1782–1783 1783–1784 and Master of the Rolls 1784–1788; died in office
Lord-ellenborough.jpg Lord Ellenborough 11 April 18022 November 1818Previously Attorney General 1801–1802; interim Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1806
Lord Tenterden LCJ by William Owen.jpg Sir Charles Abbott
(Lord Tenterden from 1827)
2 November 18184 November 1832Interim Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1827; died in office
Thomas Denman, 1st Baron Denman by Sir Martin Archer Shee crop.jpg Sir Thomas Denman
(Lord Denman from 1834)
4 November 18325 March 1850Previously Attorney General 1830–1832; interim Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1834
1stBaronCampbell.JPG Lord Campbell 5 March 185024 June 1859Previously Attorney General 1834 and 1835–1841; briefly Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1841; later Lord Chancellor 1859–1861
Sir Alexander Cockburn LCJ by GF Watts.jpg Sir Alexander Cockburn, Bt 24 June 18591 November 1875Previously Attorney General 1851–1852 1852–1856 and Chief Justice of the Common Pleas 1856–1859.

Lord Chief Justices of England (later England and Wales) 1875–present

PortraitLord Chief JusticeFromUntilNotes
Sir Alexander Cockburn LCJ by GF Watts.jpg Sir Alexander Cockburn, Bt 1 November 187520 November 1880Died in office
Lord Coleridge LCJ by EU Eddis.JPG Lord Coleridge 29 November 188014 June 1894Previously Attorney General 1871–1873 and Chief Justice of the Common Pleas 1873–1880; died in office
Charles Lord Russell LCJ by JD Penrose.png Lord Russell of Killowen 11 July 189410 August 1900Previously Attorney General 1886 1892–1894; first Catholic Lord Chief Justice; died in office
Portrait of Richard Webster, 1st Viscount Alverstone.jpg Lord Alverstone 24 October 190021 October 1913Previously Attorney-General 1885–1886 1886–1892 1895–1900 and Master of the Rolls in 1900; in retirement, created Viscount Alverstone in 1913
Sir Rufus Isaacs GGBain.jpg Sir Rufus Isaacs
(Lord Reading from 1914,
Viscount Reading from 1916,
Earl of Reading from 1917)
21 October 19138 March 1921Previously Attorney General 1910–1913; later Viceroy of India 1921–1925 and created Marquess of Reading in 1926; first Jewish Lord Chief Justice
1stLordTrevethin.jpg Sir Alfred Lawrence
(Lord Trevethin from August 1921)
15 April 19212 March 1922
Gordon Hewart LCJ by John Lander.jpg Lord Hewart 8 March 192212 October 1940Previously Attorney General 1919–1922; in retirement, created Viscount Hewart in 1940
Thomas Inskip.jpg Viscount Caldecote 14 October 194023 January 1946Previously Attorney General 1928–1929 and 1932–1936 and Lord Chancellor 1939–1940
RaynerGoddard.jpg Lord Goddard 23 January 194629 September 1958Previously a law lord from 1944
The Lord Parker of Waddington.jpg Lord Parker of Waddington 29 September 195820 April 1971
Lord Widgery 20 April 197115 April 1980
Lord Lane 15 April 198027 April 1992Previously a law lord from 1979
Lord Taylor of Gosforth 27 April 19924 June 1996
Thomas Bingham, Baron Bingham of Cornhill.jpg Lord Bingham of Cornhill 4 June 19966 June 2000First Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales; Master of the Rolls 1992–1996; Senior Law Lord 2000–2008;
Official portrait of Lord Woolf crop 2.jpg Lord Woolf 6 June 200030 September 2005Previously a law lord from 1992; Master of the Rolls from 1996–2000
Official portrait of Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers crop 2.jpg Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers 30 September 20051 October 2008Previously a law lord from 1999; Master of the Rolls 2000–2005; later Senior Law Lord 2008–2009 and President of the Supreme Court 2009–2012
Official portrait of Lord Judge crop 2.jpg Lord Judge 1 October 200830 September 2013Previously Deputy Chief Justice of England and Wales 2003–2005
Official portrait of Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd crop 2.jpg Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd 1 October 20131 October 2017
Lord Burnett of Maldon 2 October 2017Incumbent

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