High Court Judges
High Court Judges in England and Wales often deal with the more complex and difficult cases.
High Court Judges usually sit in London, but they also travel to court centres around the country as well as sitting in London. They try serious criminal cases, important civil cases and assist the Lord and Lady Justices to hear appeals.
High Court Judges are given the prefix ‘The Honourable’ and are referred to as ‘Mr/Mrs/Ms Justice surname’. So, for example, a High Court Judge would formally be referred to as The Honourable Mrs Justice Smith. This might sometimes be abbreviated to Smith J.
Where they sit
High Court Judges are assigned to one of the three divisions of the High Court – the King’s Bench Division, the Family Division or the Chancery Division.
The King’s Bench Division
The King’s Bench Division deals with contract and tort (civil wrongs) and judicial review, and includes specialist courts: the Commercial Court, the Administrative Court, the Technology and Construction Court, and the Administrative Court. At full complement it consists of 71 judges, headed by the President of the King’s Bench Division.
The Family Division
The Family Division, which deals with family law, consists of up to 19 judges headed by the President of the Family Division. Judges of the Family Division also sit as judges of the Court of Protection.
The Chancery Division
The Chancery Division deals with company law, partnership claims, conveyancing, land law, probate, patent and taxation cases, and consists of 18 High Court judges, headed by the Chancellor of the High Court. The division includes three specialist courts: the Companies Court, the Patents Court and the Bankruptcy Court. Chancery Division judges normally sit in London, but also hear cases in Cardiff, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle.
High Court judges are appointed by the King on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor, after a fair and open competition administered by the Judicial Appointments Commission.
High Court judges are sometimes known as “red judges” because of their colourful robes, but their dress codes are actually more complex than that.
Red robes are usually worn only by judges dealing with criminal cases.
High Court judges presiding over civil cases wear the civil robe introduced on 1 October 2008, with red tabs at the neck of the gown and no wig.
Judges hearing Family Division cases in Chambers (a private room) do not wear court dress.
High Court judges sitting in the criminal division of the Court of Appeal wear a black silk gown and a short wig.
On Red Letter days (which include the Sovereign’s birthday and certain saints’ days) all High Court judges wear a scarlet robe.
Roles of the clerk
Every High Court judge is assigned a clerk who provides administrative support. Clerks are based at the Royal Courts of Justice or Rolls Building in London but may travel with their judge when he or she goes ‘on circuit’ to hear complex cases elsewhere in the country.
Find out more on the High Court webpages.