The Appointment of Judges

(This is a current extract from the Patterns of Power Repository.  An archived copy of this page is held at http://www.patternsofpower.org/edition02/5262.htm)

The public perception of justice depends upon how judges are appointed.  The requirement for competence means that other members of the judiciary have to be involved in the appointment process but it is important to avoid judges being perceived as a self-perpetuating elite which is unrepresentative of the population as a whole. 

Courts can sometimes overrule the legislature, for example when implementing human rights conventions (5.2.2), so the mechanisms for appointing judges have become a matter for public debate on both sides of the Atlantic.[1]  It is important that the judiciary is acceptable to, and is respected by, the people – and it should be free from political interference, as discussed later (5.2.8).

Another crucial aspect in the appointment of judges is that they are the last line of defence against corruption, as discussed later (7.2.5).  Whilst it is impossible to prevent corruption in the judiciary, it is less likely if judges have generous incomes and if there is a higher court to appeal to (

© PatternsofPower.org, 2014                                                 

[1] The appointment of Supreme Court judges in Britain has become a matter for debate because of the political implications, as pointed out in an article by James Grant and entitled A law unto itself, which was published in Prospect magazine on 25 May 2011 and was available in May 2014 at http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/a-law-unto-itself-supreme-court-judges/.  This article also mentioned the politicisation and public scrutiny of such appointments in America, and referred to Ronald Dworkin’s criticism of the American system in practice, calling recent confirmation hearings “a waste of everyone’s time, a parade of missed opportunities.”