How To Be a Judge

Lords of appeal in ordinary are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, who receives advice from the Lord Chancellor. Generally appointed from the ranks of Court of Appeal judges.

Heads of division, the Lord Chancellor, the Master of the Rolls, the President of the Family Division and the Vice-Chancellor are also appointed by the Queen. The statutory qualification is to be qualified for appointment as a Lord Justice of Appeal or judge of the Court of Appeal.

Lord justices of appeal are again appointed by the Queen. The statutory qualification is a 10-year High Court qualification or to be a judge of

the High Court. Appointment is usually on promotion from the ranks of

experienced High Court judges.

High Court Judges

High Court judges are also appointed by the Queen. The statutory

qualification is a 10-year High Court qualification or to have been a

circuit judge for at least two years.

Appointments to the High Court have generally been made from members of the bar who have been in practice for 20-30 years and are QCs. But the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 made it possible for suitably qualified solicitors to be appointed. They will normally have sat as deputy High Court judges and/or recorders.

Appointments are made as vacancies arise. Applications for appointment to the High Court are invited annually from suitably qualified practitioners and circuit judges. The Lord Chancellor reserves the right to appoint those who have not made an application.

The Lord Chancellor has powers under the Supreme Court Act 1981 to appoint persons qualified for appointment as High Court judges to be deputy judges. Appointments are by invitation only.

Circuit Judges

Circuit judges are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor. The statutory qualification is a 10-year Crown Court or 10-year County Court qualification, to be a recorder or to be the holder of another

judicial office of at least three years’ standing in a full-time capacity.

They are normally appointed to hear both criminal and civil cases; some are authorised to hear public and/or private law family cases; and some sit in more specialised civil jurisdictions, for example chancery or mercantile cases, or cases before the Technology and Construction Court. In light of last year’s Lord Woolf reforms, some deal only with civil matters.

The Lord Chancellor will normally only consider applicants that have sat as recorders for at least two years and are between 45 and 60 years old, or, for civil posts, serving as district judges of three years’ standing. Advertisements are placed in national newspapers and/or legal journals.

Recorders

Recorders are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor, who has the power under the Courts Act 1971 to extend appointments. The statutory qualification is a 10-year Crown Court or

10-year County Court qualification.

The jurisdiction is similar to that of a circuit judge, but generally they will handle less complex cases. A recorder is required to sit judicially for at least 20 days per year, of which at least 10 should be a continuous period.

The Lord Chancellor recommends only those who have served as

assistant recorders. He does not normally consider anyone below the age of 38. A minimum period of three years’ service (two in the case of Queen’s Counsel) as an assistant recorder is normally expected.

Assistant recorders are authorised to sit by the Lord Chancellor and are required to sit for at least 20 days per year, of which 10 should be a

continuous period. He will normally only consider those candidates between 35 and 53 years of age.

District Judges

Appointed by the Lord Chancellor, the statutory qualification is a seven-year general qualification.

The Lord Chancellor will normally only consider applicants who have been serving as deputy district judges for at least two years, or who completed 40 sittings in that capacity. Usually, only candidates who are aged between 40 and 60 are considered. Advertisements are placed in national newspapers and/or legal journals.

Deputy district judges are appointed by the Lord Chancellor and the

statutory qualification is the same as for a district judge. They sit on a part-time basis, between 20 and 50 days a year.

On successful completion of initial training they are approved to sit for a probationary period of 18 months in the first instance. If successful they will normally be reappointed for a further term of three years.

The Lord Chancellor will normally consider individuals aged between 35 and 60.