Judicial appointments, and academics – a footnote

Academic Mortar Board via https://pixabay.com/en/graduation-cap-hat-achievement-309661/ and Judicial Wig via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court_dress#/media/File:Legal_wigs_today.jpgLord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom gave an address (pdf) to the International Council of Advocates at the World Bar Conference in Edinburgh recently. Given the occasion, Neuberger was mostly concerned with the role of advocates; but he did also mention the inter-relationship between bench and bar; and he made a very interesting observation about judicial diversity, in particular about the desirability of recruiting judges from academia or government.

Here are some extracts (emphasis added):

3. An honest, expert, respected, and independent judiciary is now generally accepted as being an essential ingredient of the rule of law, which is one of the two main constitutional pillars of an properly ethical and commercially successful society (the other pillar being democratic government). …

6. I believe that the system that it exists in the countries represented here today, Zimbabwe, Wales, South Africa, Scotland, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, Namibia, Ireland, Hong Kong, England or Australia, is one which we have every reason to feel proud of. Not only does each of us have a strong and independent judiciary and a strong and independent legal profession, but we each have a system which ensures that the two groups, judges and lawyers, understand each other. A late-entry judiciary consisting mostly of people who have been practising lawyers is a great advantage. It means that our judges have experience and understanding of the other side of the courtroom, with all the pressures of legal practice, and it also means that our judges have some direct experience and understanding of the real world (if there is such a thing) outside the courtroom.

7. That is not to say that I am against recruiting judges from other areas, such as academia or government. On the contrary, I think that limiting judicial recruitment at any level to former practitioners is positively to be discouraged. Diversity is always an important aim, and it should not be limited to the familiar categories, such as ethnic origin and gender. Diversity in social, educational, and professional backgrounds is every bit as vital. …

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