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September 18, 2013

Should judges be judged?

Judges are perhaps the only public servants left who are not subject to any performance management.   They are not appraised, their work is not observed by peers and they have to do something pretty remiss to be admonished by the Office for Judicial Complaints.  It’s an unusual judge who openly criticises the system but Lord Carlisle did recently.  A deputy High Court Judge and leading Liberal peer, Lord Carlisle advocated the setting up of an inspectorate of judges to evaluate their courtroom performance.  I think its a great idea and would love to know what other judges think.  But I fear that it is far from getting off the ground.  Judges have been discussing instituting an appraisal system for at least four years, but none has yet been put in place.  Though magistrates do appraise each other. So, as it stands, most judges get very little,  if any, feedback.  Many don’t even know if their own decisions have been overturned on appeal.  There is no routine mechanism whereby District Judges and magistrates are informed, about (in advance or after) an appeal to their sentence/conviction.   They do go on refresher courses, but no judge has a development plan tailored to their individual needs.  I agree with Lord Carlisle. Some feedback, let alone performance management, would be good.