Alison Russell QC has become the first High Court judge to be granted permission to use the title ‘Ms Justice’ in court.
It is standard practice for female judges in the High Court to be referred to as Mrs Justice, regardless of marital status or personal preference.
Russell, 55, an expert in human rights and family law, practiced as a barrister at 1 Garden Court before becoming a judge. She was called to the Bar in 1983 and became Queen’s Counsel in 2008. She has sat previously as a recorder, is a member of the Family Justice Council and was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in February 2014.
Russell was appointed to the High Court in January, and has been allowed to update the way she is addressed in court from Mrs Justice Russell to Ms Justice Russell.
A spokesperson for the Judicial Office confirmed that the title had been approved by Lord Thomas, the lord chief justice, and Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division of the High Court.
“This is now official nomenclature,” said the spokesperson. “On her appointment – 13 January 2014 – she asked the lord chief justice, with the support of the president of the Family Division, if she could use this title, and he approved her request.”
Unfortunately, it seems that the Judiciary are yet to be wholly at ease with this new, more modern mode of address for female High Court judges. The formal notice of Russell’s appointment as a High Court judge in December referred to her as both “Ms” and “Miss”. A statement said: “The lord chief justice will assign Ms Russell to the Family Division.” But “notes for editors” added: “Miss Russell, 55, was called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn in 1983…”