Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Judging Judges

Interviews to appoint a new Chief Justice are imminent. The Judicial Services Commission have to undertake this important function. It will decide who will be Gibraltar's Chief Justice until the chosen appointee is 67 or perhaps even 72.

Substantial judicial experience is a necessary attribute before someone is appointed to this senior judicial post. Relative youth not only lacks this experience but also builds in a tenure that will be excessively long. Holding a post of such importance for too long is not conducive to the vitality and impartiality that are requisites of the judicial process.

More importantly, however, Gibraltar having just been through the tortuous and unsettling process of removal of the last incumbent should aim to appoint someone who will bring stability to the judicial system. Experience and the confidence born of experience is what is needed to achieve this.

Of course Gibraltar should aspire and indeed aim to appoint Gibraltarians to this post. It should not rush headlong to do so just for the sake of achieving such a laudable ambition.

Judge Anthony Dudley has done excellently well during his tenure as acting Chief Justice. Undoubtedly the time will come for him to be appointed to that post but has that time arrived yet? He is relatively young. His experience over the last 2 years has been enormous but to be appointed now could be premature. Certainly to be in that post potentially for in excess of 25 years is daunting. It is unlikely, also, to be conducive to a vibrant judicial system.


  1. To my knowledge Judge Dudley has not made any 'mistakes'. Why not appoint for a trial period say 5 years and then renew. Why bring an outsider in? He may be unsuitable and then we are stuck with him. Judge Dudley on the other hand seems to be respected and I believe should be treated as any other applicant. Moreso because he is Gibraltarian. Unless of course his experience is deemed by the Privy Council to be insufficient.

  2. Trial periods are not to be encouraged from the perspective of ensuring judicial independence. Inherent in a trial period is a suspicion that the appointee is not of sufficient calibre. There is nothing in this blog that suggests that Judge Dudley is not respected or suggestive that he has made "mistakes" and of course he should be treated as any other applicant.

    The Constitution provides for security of tenure to the age of 67 to satisfy "independence" issues. There is a provision that allows for shorter appointments but an element of circumspection should be applied in using this. additionally there is EU case law about length of tenure that needs to be taken into account (Starr v Procurator Fiscal).

  3. "Substantial judicial experience is a necessary attribute before someone is appointed to this senior judicial post"

    Do you need substantial experience before being appointed puisne judge in the Supreme Court? or is it ok to be appointed without there even being a vacancy advertised. Same goes for Stip Magistrate.

    It would be very interesting to see exactly how names for acting posts get proposed / considered and why it is necessary to have people in acting roles for so long (apart from the CJ its obvious what that had to be an acting role)