The decision of Mr Justice Peter Smith not to recuse himself in a recent case is being referred to the Office of Judicial Complaints (OJC) for further investigation, it was announced today (16 July).
The Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips and Lord Chancellor Jack Straw were consulted on the decision and agreed to refer the decision in an emergency Court of Appeal hearing just over two weeks ago (4 July).
The Lawyer understands that no formal complaints were put forward to the OJC and that Phillips LCJ and Straw made the referral themselves under the 2006 regulations.
The regulations allow the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor to refer investigations to the OJC where a judge’s conduct may warrant disciplinary proceedings.
The referral comes after Peter Smith J would not recuse himself from the case of Howell v Lees Millais.
Law firm Addleshaw Goddard, whose head of the private client group Paul Howell was one of the parties, requested Smith J recuse himself as the judge has been in negotiations with the firm about a potential job.
As The Lawyer revealed (9 July), the £750,000 talks for Smith J and his clerk broke down, which led Addleshaws to ask for the recusal due to a potential conflict of interest.
Smith J refused. This led to the emergency Court of Appeal decision, which held that the judge’s decision was affected by his personal dealings with the firm.