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Master of the Rolls

The Master of the Rolls is one of the Heads of Division and is Head of Civil Justice. As the leading judge dealing with the civil work of the Court of Appeal, he or she presides over the most difficult and sensitive cases.

As a Head of Division and Member of the Privy Council, the Master of the Rolls is given the prefix 'Right Honourable'.

The current Master of the Rolls is Lord Dyson.

Who is the Master of the Rolls?

The Master of the Rolls was originally responsible for the safe-keeping of charters, patents and records of important court judgments written on parchment rolls. He still has responsibility for documents of national importance, being Chairman of the Advisory Council on Public Records and Chairman of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts.

The Master of the Rolls is, by virtue of his office, a judge of the Court of Appeal and and is the President of its Civil Division. He is responsible for the deployment and organisation of the work of the judges of the division as well as presiding in one of its courts.

He normally sits with two Lords Justices of Appeal and there is occasionally a third member such as a retired Lord Justice. The most complex cases traditionally come before the Master of the Rolls.

The Master of the Rolls is second in judicial importance to the Lord Chief Justice. He is consulted on matters such as the civil justice system and rights of audience.

Appointment

The Heads of Division are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of a selection panel convened by the Judicial Appointments Commission.

The selection panel comprises the President of the Supreme Court or his nominee as Chair, the Lord Chief Justice or his nominee, the Chairman of the JAC or their nominee and a lay member of the JAC. The Chairman of the panel has a casting vote in the event of a tie.

The panel reports to the Lord Chancellor, who can then accept the selection, reject it, or require the panel to reconsider. If practical the panel must consult the current holder of the office for which a selection is being made.

By law, candidates for the post must be qualified for appointment as a Lord Justice of Appeal or to be a judge of the Court of Appeal.

In practice, Heads of Division are generally appointed from among the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (the Law Lords) or Lords Justices of Appeal.

Court Dress

For criminal hearings Heads of Division and Court of Appeal judges wear a Court coat and waistcoat (or a sleeved waistcoat) with skirt or trousers and bands (two strips of fabric hanging from the front of a collar), a black silk gown and a short wig.

When presiding over civil cases this group of judges wear the civil robe introduced on 1 October 2008, with gold tabs at the neck of the gown and no wig.

 

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