Five year report card

On the eve of the retirement of their first chairman, Baroness Prashar, on 1 October the Judicial Appointments Commission launched a slender book of essays, Judicial Appointments, Balancing Independence, Accountability and Legitimacy, in which nine highly qualified authors dissect the background, the workings and the challenges of the 21st Century appointments system.


Taking credit where it is due, Lord Mackay of Clashfern points out that he introduced open, advertised competitions with candidates assessed against specific criteria in the mid 1990s and Jonathan Sumption QC reiterates that the Constitutional Reform Act 2006 put on a statutory basis “principles which already govern the recruitment and status of the judiciary”.

The book’s emphasis is on judges themselves: what makes a good one (Hickinbottom J), how they are becoming more diverse (Hallett LJ), and what happens when they apply (track record still counts for more than performance in role play and interview).

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, argues for the wider value of legitimacy for the judiciary and recalls two current prominent politicians liking the idea that judges should be elected.

“If they would even contemplate the idea of so blurring the lines of justice and politics, there must be a serious job of public education and perception building to be done on the part of those of us who jealously defend the independence of the judicial branch.”

The Bar Council, the Law Society and the Institute of Legal Executives contributed to publishing the essays.

 

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