Rive Gauche: A quickie on diversity……

“Fairness and equality are central values of the law, and the courts should reflect this. Everyone should be able to see the courts as their courts, there for all sections of society and not just for some.”

Baroness Hale, Justice of The Supreme Court of The United Kingdom

Lady Hale, rightly, has expressed the view that the judiciary is not diverse enough – drawing attention to the fact that she remains the only female justice in The Supreme Court.  Jennifer MacLeod, in The Guardian, has an interesting article on the theme: Resistance to diversity among judges is misguided and writes “Lady Hale’s right, diversity is a constitutional issue but a more representative bench would make for better decisions.”

It isn’t, of course, simply a matter of gender diversity. To gender we must add ethnicity and background – or, to be blunt about it, class background.  Professor J.A.G Griffiths published a seminal book in 1977 – The Politics of The Judiciary. I remember reading it and enjoying it at the time. The charge was made that the English judiciary was middle aged, middle class and white.  Middleminded may well have also been mentioned as an epithet.  I can’t recall if Griffiths or  another commentator  added the latter.

I found this on Google when I searched for Griffiths’ book… I just cannot resist..

Wikipedia, interestingly, notes Lady Hale’s membership of The Athenaeum.

I’m afraid I tend to the Groucho Marx school of thought about clubs these days: “I sent the club a wire stating, PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT ME AS A MEMBER.”

I will admit to having been a member of several – East India, Reform and Queen’s Club – the latter two as part of a corporate deal.  I believe that I am still a member of The Union in Soho – but haven’t been for years and my membership may have lapsed.  I  was not a member of The Groucho Club in Soho but I had far too many amusing evenings there as a guest to need to be or wish to be.

Anyway, I digress – back to diversity and the best judge for the job.  The clue is in the last phrase ‘ the best judge for the job’.  I am all for diversity – but I am not keen on positive discrimination or tokenism;   it demeans the appointee and does not serve the system well.  In that, I am possibly in a minority – but I can see no benefit in selecting second best.  The better question is – are women, ethnic minorities and those from less privileged backgrounds getting a fair crack of the whip? I am not a practitioner.  I am not a sociologist – but I do keep my eyes and ears open and I have come to the view that there is a fair amount of ‘bird flocking togethery’ going on in the legal profession and this leads me, ineluctably, to a personal conclusion that the answer is NO.

I do accept that the profession is trying to bring in greater diversity.  I do accept that the selection of judges is more open – but I suspect that we have a fair way to go before we get a genuinely diverse legal profession and judiciary – a judiciary which is representative of society as a whole and one which will be more highly regarded because it will be seen to be so.

4 thoughts on “Rive Gauche: A quickie on diversity……

  1. The trouble is I suspect that if you don’t promote diversity through affirmative action or otherwise you won’t get ‘the best judge for the job’. I take that the best ought to be conversant with all aspects of society. White, middle-class males represent only a small proportion of society. Do they understand sociology-economic conditions in Peckham or Hackney? Unlikely. Perhaps–but it’s a remote one–they could be taught but I doubt it. No the best judge for the job will have to come from all sectors of society. The definition of the best is too narrow otherwise.

    I can see the objections to this now…….

  2. Yes, the sheer costs of qualifying as a lawyer will ensure that the law becomes the career for the scions of rich families.

    Re the Supreme Court – does it not become a self-perpetuating club when the court’s President / Deputy sit on the appointments commissions. Also, there is the need to have representation from each of the constituent parts of the U.K.

  3. Just a question…what such a special skill the last 3 appointments (Lord Dyson, Lord Wilson and Jonathan Sumption QC) would provide (always according to the appointments committee “beautifully” chaired by Lord Phillips and Lord Hope) that, for example, Lady Justice Arden or Lady Justice Hallett, could not? They are both excellent judges and also women, which would in some sort of way increase diversity! What is it that Dyson, Wilson and Sumption have that Arden and Hallett don’t?

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