Justice concerned about ‘biased’ judges in private practice

Human rights organisation Justice has raised concerns over the Lord Chancellor’s plans to allow judges to return to practice after leaving the bench.

In response to a consultation paper from the Lord Chancellor, Justice director Roger Smith said that conflicts of interest could arise if judges were open to approaches from law firms.

“It is about bias and the appearance of bias,” said Smith. “If firms litigated in court and then the judge goes to work for one of those firms, it would be extremely uncomfortable.”

Smith said that judges should have to wait a minimum of five years before returning to practice.

The Lord Chancellor wants to abolish a contractual statute that prevents salaried judges from returning to practice as advocates in order to encourage more women and ethnic minorities to the bench.

Smith said Justice was in favour of this approach but was concerned at the way the Department of Constitutional Affairs was handling the change in contractual obligations.