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Jonathan Sumption : biography

9 December 1948 -

Jonathan Philip Chadwick Sumption, Lord Sumption, OBE (born 9 December 1948), is a British judge, author and medieval historian. He was sworn in as a Justice of the Supreme Court on 11 January 2012, succeeding The Lord Collins of Mapesbury, and was granted the style of Lord as a courtesy title by Royal Sign Manual in 2011, but without a seat in Parliament. Exceptionally, he was raised to the Supreme Court bench directly from the practising bar, rather than from prior service as a full-time judge.

He is well known for his role as a barrister in many legal cases. They include appearances in the Hutton Inquiry on the UK Government's behalf, in the Three Rivers case, his representation of former Cabinet Minister Stephen Byers and the UK Department for Transport in the Railtrack private shareholders' action against the British Government in 2005, for defending the 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 honoured as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1998 and is also known for writing a substantial narrative history of the Hundred Years' War, so far in three volumes. Lord Sumption has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (FRHistS) and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London (FSA).

Early life

His parents were Anthony Sumption, a decorated Royal Naval officer and barrister, and Hilda Hedigan; their marriage was dissolved in 1979.

Sumption was educated at Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford. He graduated from Oxford University in 1970, receiving a B.A. degree in History with first class honours. Retrieved: 16 October 2011 He became a Fellow of Magdalen College teaching History, before leaving to pursue a career in the Law. He was called to the bar at Inner Temple in 1975 and subsequently pursued a successful legal practice in commercial law. In the late 1970s Sumption was a regular contributor to The Sunday Telegraph.

Full style

  • The Rt Hon Lord Sumption, OBE, PC, FRHistS, FSA

Legal career

Sumption was appointed Queen's Counsel (QC) in 1986, and 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 Jersey and the Guernsey Court of Appeal.

He has been a member of the Judicial Appointments Commission as well as a Governor of the Royal Academy of Music. Until his appointment to the Supreme Court, he was joint head of Brick Court Chambers.

On 30 November 2007, when a practising barrister, Sumption successfully represented himself before Lord Justice Collins in a judicial review application in the Administrative Court concerning development near his home at Greenwich.

Supreme Court

On 4 May 2011 it was announced that Sumption would take a seat on the Supreme Court at a later date. Upon his subsequent swearing-in on 11 January 2012, he was granted, by Royal Sign Manual, the courtesy title of Lord Sumption. Sumption had been appointed to the Privy Council on 14 December 2011 in anticipation of his joining the Court, whose Justices double as members of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

Sumption is the first person appointed to the Supreme Court without previously serving as a full-time judge since its inception in 2009. There were only five such appointments to the Court's predecessor, the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords of the Parliament. 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).

Earnings as a barrister

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.

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