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The Guardian: Boredom forces judge to quit

The Guardian: Boredom forces judge to quit

Clare Dyer, legal editor

A high court judge who is leaving the bench to join a firm of solicitors because he is bored with judging took fellow judges by surprise yesterday.

Mr Justice Laddie has risked the disapproval of the legal establishment by breaking the unwritten convention that the bench is a life sentence ended only by retirement or death.

Yesterday his resignation was the talk of the inns of court where judges meet for lunch. One appeal court judge said: “For some of the old school people at Lincoln’s Inn, saying he was going to join a firm of solicitors was a double insult.”

The judge said some colleagues felt Sir Hugh Laddie was saying, in effect, “if no one else is resigning as I am resigning because of being bored, they must need very little stimulation”. He added: “You might feel harassed, you might feel overworked, but bored I think not. I wasn’t when I was there [in the high court]. I had a big variety of work: one day murder, the next ships.”

Lord Donaldson, former master of the rolls, insisted that he was never bored when he was a high court judge. “The divisional court was absolutely fascinating. The [now-defunct] industrial relations court was even more fascinating.”

A high court judge described the job as “lovely” but admitted: “It is difficult if you’ve seen it all before to keep sufficient adrenaline.”

He said judges who spent much of their time in a narrow field, like Sir Hugh, who specialised in patents, trademarks and other intellectual property, were more inclined to feel they had “seen it all before,” adding: “What keeps us going is doing different things all the time.

“You’ve got to think how lucky you are having an easy job and long holidays and how much better it is than being a barrister or solicitor.

“You’ve got to read serious books and think about serious things. Most people would give their eye teeth for a job like it.”

Sir Hugh could have gone on till the judicial retirement age of 70 but will leave aged 59 after 10 years on the bench, saying he found it more “fun” to work in a team. He will join Willoughby & Partners, a law firm specialising in patents and design, trademarks and copyright.

Friends said he had been unhappy for some time and had not been looking forward to spending 11 more years doing the same thing.

The last time a high court judge deserted the bench for another job was in 1970 when Sir Henry Fisher left to join a merchant bank, claiming he had chosen the wrong career.

When Lord Falconer, the lord chancellor, recently suggested restructuring judges’ career patterns to allow them to return to practice, Lord Woolf, the lord chief justice argued that this would not be appropriate for judges of the high court and above.

A spokeswoman for the lord chancellor said yesterday: “We don’t comment on judges’ resignations.”

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