Judicial Appointments Commission
The Judicial Appointments Commission is responsible for selecting judges in England and Wales. It is a non-departmental public body which was created on 3 April 2006 as part of the reforms following the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. It took over a responsibility previously that of the Lord Chancellor and the Department for Constitutional Affairs (previously the Lord Chancellor's Department), although the Lord Chancellor retains responsibility for appointing the selected candidates. The Lord Chancellor has also given up his other judicial functions, including the right to sit as a judge in the House of Lords.
The Commission launched its new system to select High Court judges on 31 October 2006, looking for candidates to fill 10 vacancies and 15 for a reserve list. Candidates submitted a nine-page application form, and shortlisted candidates were interviewed. All candidates were to be judged on merit alone, measured by five core qualities: intellectual capacity; personal qualities (integrity, independence, judgment, decisiveness, objectivity, ability; willingness to learn); ability to understand and deal fairly; authority and communication skills; and efficiency.
The Commission is made up of 15 members: 2 from the legal profession (1 barrister, 1 solicitor), 5 judges, 1 tribunal member, 1 lay justice (magistrate), 6 lay people, including the chairman. The members of the Commission are:
- Mr Christopher Stephens
- Mr Martin Forde, QC
- Ms Alexandra Marks
- Lay justice
The JAC is run by a staff of under 70. There are two Directorates - Operational and Selection Exercise, between them they make up the functions to run the JAC and exercises for the selection of judges to the Courts and Tribunals. Selection Exercises teams run exercises and currently number 5 teams. The Candidate Services Team are the public face of the JAC. They handle all applications, booking panels for selection days and running the Front of House for the selection days. The JAC also has an Outreach and Programming section which deals with seminars, the media, advertisements and planning the number of exercises, when and how they are held. The Chief Executive is Nigel Reeder. The Operational Director is John Rodley and the Selecion Exercise Director is Sarah Gane. Despite initial doubts about the JAC, they have proved to deliver successful exercises with quality candidates appointed to the High Court, Queens Council, Senior Circuit Judge and numerous Tribunals. The JAC treats all candidates equally regardless of legal experience, age or ethnicity.
Exercises are launched annually or biennially with specialist tribunals recruited when required. Potential candidates may attend a Dry Run which gives them experience of how an actual selection process takes place. Exercises are run by the various Selection Exercise teams and each exercise requires its own particular requirement however they do follow set processes. All candidates have to apply initially by application form which is then processed, depending on the exercise these candidates are then either sifted or invited to take a qualifying test. After these stages candidates are shortlisted and then invited to an interview on a Selection Day. Candidates may have to attend just an interview or prepare case scenario's for Situantional Questioning. They may also take part in a role play. All of these are marked by the panel members who then make their recommendations to the Selection Character Committee which is made up of the Commissioners. They then agree or disagree with the panel choices and those that make the grade are then put forward to the Lord Chancellor for appointment. The process is made to be as fair and equal as possible with the JAC selecting candidates to put forward for appointment based on merit.
The Judicial Appointments Commission is separate from the Commission for Judicial Appointments (CJA). The CJA was established in March 2001 to review the procedures for the appointment of judges and QCs, and to investigate complaints into those procedures. It closed on 31 March 2006 with the establishment of the Judicial Appointments Commission and the Judicial Appointments and Conduct Ombudsman (JACO). A separate Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland and Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission undertake similar functions for Scotland and Northern Ireland, respectively.
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- Judicial Appointments Commission
- The Commission for Judicial Appointments
- Judicial Appointments and Conduct Ombudsman
- Constitutional reforms come into force (DCA press release, 23 January 2006)
- Sumption and Nally bag Judicial Appointments roles (The Lawyer, 23 January 2006)
- Falconer ends 700 years of history (The Telegraph, 23 January 2006)
- Taps on the shoulder make way for job applications (The Times, 3 April 2006)
- Judges aim to dispel fusty image with first move into cyberspace (The Guardian, 3 April 2006)
- JAC launches new system for judicial appointments 31 October 2006
- Merit is our bedrock — we'll appoint judges solely on merit (The Times, 31 October 2006)