Neuberger becomes England's number 2 judge

By Simon Rocker, July 30, 2009

Lord Neuberger has been appointed the second most senior judge in England and Wales, the Master of the Rolls —the fourth Jewish holder of the post.

Now 61, the youngest law lord will take office in October as president of the Court of Appeal’s division and is ranked second only to the Lord Chief Justice.

He follows in the footstep of Lord Woolf, who was Master of the Rolls in 1996-2000, Sir Archibald Levin-Smith who held the post in 1900-1, and Sir George Jessel in the 19th century.

Lord Neuberger is the brother-in-law of Baroness Neuberger, the country’s only rabbinic dame. She is married to his brother Anthony, a professor of finance at Warwick University.

The former David Neuberger has enjoyed a meteoric legal career.

After initially working in the City for N M Rothschild, he was called to the bar in 1974.

He took silk in 1987, specialising in property law, became a Chancery division judge in 1996 and an Appeal Court judge five years ago.

The Master of the Rolls traditionally sits in the most complex appeal cases and also has responsibility for authorising solicitors to practise.

A former chairman of the Young Friends of the Hebrew University, Lord Neuberger has been a member of the UJIA’s bar and bench committee. His late father, Professor Albert Neuberger, was chairman of the British Friends of the Hebrew University.

Since 1999 he has chaired a National Museums advisory committee on looted Holocaust-era art. Two years ago he led an inquiry calling for wider access to the Bar. Of his new position, Lord Neuberger said: “It’s a great honour and responsibility. I’m looking forward to it.”

But one responsibility the Master of the Rolls no longer has to fulfil is that undertaken by his predecessors from the 14th to early 17th centuries: to be keeper of the House of Converts, which looked after Jews who converted to Christianity (though Jews had been officially kicked out of the country in 1290).

Lord Neuberger’s predecessor in 1900, Archibald Levin-Smith, was a first-class cricketer and a member of the Cambridge crew whose boat sank in the boat race of 1859.

Last updated: 4:27pm, July 30 2009