Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales

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 (Lord Burnett)

since 2 October 2017
StyleThe Right Honourable
NominatorJudicial Appointments Commission
AppointerMonarch 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 (Lord Burnett), 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.