Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image

Times Online: Government scraps plan to allow judges back to work

November 5, 2007
Frances Gibb, Legal Editor

Jack Straw has ditched controversial reforms that would have allowed judges, including former Lord Chancellors, to return to work as lawyers after a stint on the bench.

The plans, put forward by Mr Straw’s predecessor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, were aimed at making the job of a judge more attractive – particularly to women.

But they ran into strong opposition from judges, with the Lord Chief Justice earlier this year condemning the plans as unworkable, possibly unlawful, counterproductive and damaging to judicial independence.

Instead of creating a more diverse judiciary, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, Britain’s most senior judge, said the plans would expose judges to accusations of bias and damage the public view of them as independent and impartial.

By convention, becoming a judge is a one way-ticket: lawyers exchange a lucrative but less predictable life at the Bar or, occasionally, in a law firm for a fixed salary, a pension and, on the High Court bench, a knighthood.

But Lord Falconer was determined to relax the rules to encourage younger applicants, particularly women, who might be deterred by the prospect of spending the rest of their working career in a job that might not fit with family commitments.

The lifting of the restriction would have even allowed future Lord Chancellors who had sat as judges to become lawyers again.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton, however, always insisted that the move would not and could not apply to him as he himself had appointed judges and could not then go back to appearing before them.

This morning Mr Straw, the Justice Secretary, said that he did not believe the steps would help increase racial and gender diversity among the judiciary.

“The Government consulted widely, considering the arguments both for and against allowing former salaried judges to return to practice,” Mr Straw said.

The announcement means the existing set-up, whereby judicial appointments are made for life, will remain in force although if a judge decides to abandon his career – as Mr Justice Laddie did two years ago – they cannot be stopped.

A consultation paper published last September said the proposed changes would apply to judges who had served “at any level”.

The original proposals said lawyers who had left the judiciary may even have been allowed to advertise themselves as “ex-judges”.

The paper set out a range of possible safeguards designed to prevent favouritism or conflicts of interest, such as a two-year “quarantine period” before they could accept jobs with any law firm which appeared before them as a judge.

Comment by Alfred Donovan

The Shell Smart trial in June and July 1999

This was High Court litigation in which my son John Donovan was the plaintiff and I was a defendant in a Counterclaim brought by Shell.

In May 2004, I wrote to the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, complaining that the trial Judge, Mr Justice Laddie as he then was, had failed to disclose a connection with Tom Moody-Stuart, the barrister son  of Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, the Group Chairman of Royal Dutch Shell at the time of the litigation. There was personal animosity between us and the Moody-Stuart family which culminated in correspondence with Lady Judy Moody-Stuart initiated by her. In my letter to Lord Falconer I alleged that the Judge displayed a blatant bias in favour of Shell. By coincidence or otherwise the Judge resigned in 2005 and joined an IT law firm which for some years has claimed Shell as a client. We discovered that Professor Sir Hugh Laddie, as he is now known, has been a long term friend of Tony Willoughby, senior partner at Willoughby & Partners/Rouse Legal. This was another Shell related connection undisclosed at the time of the trial.

The letter to Lord Falconer and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

0 Comments on “Times Online: Government scraps plan to allow judges back to work”

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: