Head of British Supreme Court to Deliver Law Commencement Address

Lexington, VA Friday, April 24, 2009

Lord Nicholas Phillips

Lord Nicholas Addison Phillips, president of the newly formed Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, will deliver this year's commencement address during the 2009 graduation exercises at the Washington and Lee University School of Law.

Commencement is scheduled for Saturday, May 9 beginning at 11:00 a.m. on the lawn between the Colonnade and Lee Chapel (rain location: Warner Center). The event is open to the public. Commencement website.

As president of the U.K. Supreme Court, Lord Phillips is equivalent to that of Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court. The new Court will begin operations in October 2009.

Lord Phillips currently is the Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, also known as the Senior Law Lord, a position he has held since October 2008. As holder of the title Baron Phillips of Worth Matravers, Lord Phillips is the head of the judicial branch of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom.

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom was established by the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005 in order to enhance the independence of the Law Lords and increase the transparency between the top levels of the U.K. judicial system and Parliament. As in the U.S., the Supreme Court will be the final court of appeal in the United Kingdom. The Court will also handle devolution issues, cases in which the legal powers of the devolved governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales come into question.  

Lord Phillips studied classics at Bryanston School in North Dorset, England, and has been a Governor of the school since 1975. He served in the Royal Navy and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserves as a commissioned officer, following which he studied law at King's College, Cambridge from 1958-1961.

Lord Phillips was called to the Bar by the Middle Temple in 1962 and practiced as a barrister from 1962-1987, specializing in admiralty and commercial work. From 1973-1978 he was the Junior Counsel to the Ministry of Defense and the Treasury in maritime and admiralty matters, and in 1978 he became a Queen's Counsel. In 1982, Lord Phillips was appointed a Recorder and began service as a full-time High Court Judge on the Queen's Bench Division in 1987.

In 1995, Lord Phillips was promoted to the Court of Appeal and appointed to the Privy Council, and in 1998, he was elevated to the House of Lords as Baron Phillips of Worth Matravers. In early 1999, he was made a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary. From 2000 to 2005, he was Master of the Rolls, and then held the position of Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales from 2005 until October 1, 2008. Lord Phillips was the first Lord Chief Justice to be head of the English judiciary.

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