Mark Potter (judge)

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The Right Honourable
Sir Mark Potter
President of the Family Division
In office
7 April 2005 – 5 April 2010
Nominated by Gordon Brown
Appointed by Elizabeth II
Preceded by Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss
Succeeded by Sir Nicholas Wall
Personal details
Born 27 August 1937 (1937-08-27) (age 79)
Alma mater University of Cambridge

Sir Mark Howard Potter PC FKC (born 27 August 1937) is an English judge who was President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice for England and Wales from 7 April 2005 to 5 April 2010.[1]


The son of the distinguished legal academic Professor Harold Potter, he went to The Perse School in Cambridge and on to read law at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He is now Honorary Fellow of Caius.

Legal career[edit]

He was called to the bar in 1961 and practised in commercial law at Fountain Court chambers. He took silk in 1980.

From 1988 to 1996 he was a Judge of the High Court of Justice, Queen's Bench Division and from 1991 to 1994 he was a Presiding Judge on the Northern Circuit. Sir Mark was appointed a Lord Justice of Appeal in 1996 and became President of the Family Division in April 2005. Throughout his judicial career, Sir Mark has sat on various committees overseeing the direction of the Bar. He has been Chairman of the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct (1998–1999) and Chairman of the Legal Services Consultative Panel.[2]

He was elected Treasurer of Gray's Inn for the year 2004/05, during which time he persuaded the then Interior Minister and subsequent Prime Minister of France, Dominique de Villepin, to become an honorary Bencher of the Inn. De Villepin accepted the honour in person with a speech in Gray's Inn.

Sir Mark Potter retired as a judge of the Court of Appeal, President of the High Court Family Division and President of the Court of Protection in April 2010. He returned to the field of Commercial Law as an arbitrator at Fountain Court chambers, with appointments in areas such as insurance, international share purchase agreements including Bermuda form and energy disputes.

Cases and administration[edit]

In July 2006, Sir Mark ruled against Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson, a lesbian couple who had wed in Canada, in their case to have their same-sex partnership recognised as marriage under English law.

Sir Mark held that, in withholding from same-sex partnerships the title and status of marriage, Parliament had not interfered with or failed to recognise the right of same-sex couples to respect for their private or family life; nor had it discriminated against same-sex couples in declining to alter the deep-rooted and almost universal recognition of marriage as a union between a man and woman. Sir Mark granted the couple leave to appeal; but no appeal was brought.

In 2009, following a government consultation on increasing transparency in the family courts system, Sir Mark presided over the implementation of new rules allowing media access to family proceedings, hitherto private and confidential, subject to certain restrictions.


Sir Mark is a Trustee of Somerset House in London, and also of Great Ormond Street Hospital for children. He is married and has two sons.


  1. ^ "President of the Family Division" (Press release). 31 March 2010. Archived from the original on 5 May 2010. 
  2. ^ "President of the Family Division" (Press release). 12 January 2005. Archived from the original on 3 October 2007. Retrieved 15 August 2012. 
Legal offices
Preceded by
Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss
President of the Family Division
Succeeded by
Sir Nicholas Wall

External links[edit]