Lord Chancellor gets egg on face with U-turn over High Court appointment

The Lord Chancellor has revoked the appointment of a full-time High Court judge to avoid accusations of cronyism, The Lawyer can reveal.

Former head of Fountain Court Chambers Anthony Boswood QC accepted an invitation to become a High Court judge only for it to be revoked by Lord Falconer, who before becoming Lord Chancellor was a tenant at the set. “Falconer didn’t want to appoint as a High Court judge a member of his former chambers,” said one well-placed source.

It is particularly embarrassing for Falconer, who has promised to overhaul the judicial appointments system and to make it more transparent. William Arnold, secretary to the Commissioners for Judicial Appointments, told The Lawyer that the move by Falconer may be investigated by the commissioners and form part of their 2004 report into how judges are appointed.

It is understood that Boswood, one of the commercial bar’s most highly-rated practitioners, as well as one of its biggest earners, had previously been reluctant to join the judiciary and had not applied for a position. However, he did accept the Department for Constitutional Affairs’ (DCA) invitation last summer and was due to take up the post in January 2004. As a result, Boswood cleared the caseload from his diary and his wife, a doctor, had even arranged to return to work because of the drop in Boswood’s income arising from his judicial appointment. However, in October, Falconer, who was a Fountain Court tenant between 1975 and 1997, revoked the appointment.

A DCA spokesman said: “The DCA does not comment on individual judicial appointments. Links with chambers are irrelevant to a criteria for appointment and would not form part of a decision to appoint.
Appointments to the High Court are made by the Lord Chancellor and are entirely according to merit. All candidates are subject to a widespread consultation.”

Boswood and Fountain Court declined to comment.