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The Times: It’s just the job for a retired judge

Comments by John Donovan relating to Shell and the controversial former High Court Judge, Mr Justice Laddie, are at the foot of The Times article

September 13, 2006
By Frances Gibb

The chance of a lucrative return to private practice would be allowed under a controversial reforms 
 
JUDGES would have the option of going back to work as lawyers under reforms outlined by the Government yesterday.

The plans are aimed at encouraging a greater diversity of people, including young people, women and ethnic minorities, to apply to be judges, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Lord Chancellor, said.

The change would mean that Lord Falconer himself could return to practice if removed from office under a new Labour administration headed by, for instance, Gordon Brown. 
 
The idea is likely to receive a mixed reception from judges, many of whom regard taking the judicial oath as a “one-way street”. Most give up high earnings for security of tenure and a reduced salary — and until now there has been no going back.

But yesterday Lord Falconer made clear that judges at all levels should be able to leave the bench and return to legal practice if they wished to.

Sir Hugh Laddie caused a stir last year when he announced that — in defiance of accepted behaviour — he was leaving the High Court bench because he had found the work to be insufficiently stimulating.

He left to be a consultant with Willoughby & Partners, now Rouse Legal, a firm of specialist intellectual property lawyers in London, and has said since that he has had no regrets. But some judges argue that lawyers should not be allowed to take the privilege of a knighthood and then return to practice.

Lord Woolf, the former Lord Chief Justice, has already expressed strong opposition to judges being allowed to return to the law. He argued that there was a danger that judges hearing cases involving big City practices might be seen to be influenced by the prospect of a career move at the end of their time on the bench.

Yesterday Lord Falconer accepted that there must be safeguards and outlined a consultation paper seeking views on what they should be. He said: “Increasing the diversity of the judiciary, particularly the number of women and those from black and minority-ethnic backgrounds, remains one of my key priorities.”

But, he said, prohibition on return to practice could act as a real barrier to people considering judicial appointment at an early stage of their career. “I want to access the talents of younger lawyers with excellent skills. Removing this barrier will offer significant encouragement to them.”

The consultation paper seeks views on issues such as whether a quarantine period would be necessary before a former judge was allowed to take up employment with a firm or individual who had appeared before him as a litigant or legal representative; whether judges should be barred from providing certain advocacy services, or at least for a certain time; whether there should be a minimum period of judicial service before returning to practice; and how any agreed safeguards should be publicised and enforced.

The move comes after a recent announcement by Lord Falconer of a joint strategy agreed with Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice, and Baroness Prashar, the chairwoman of the Judicial Appointments Commission, to promote diversity in the judiciary.

At present when lawyers become judges it is on the understanding that the appointment is intended to be for the remainder of a person’s professional life and that following termination of their appointment they will not return to private practice as a barrister or a solicitor. The policy includes a prohibition on offering or providing legal advice to any person in return for remuneration, but allows that former judges “ may provide services as an independent arbitrator and may receive remuneration for lectures, talks or articles”.

Lord Falconer added: “In case there is any doubt, I am not thinking of myself. I have already said I won’t return to practice if there is ever a day when I am no longer Lord Chancellor.”

Comments by John Donovan
 
Mr Justice Laddie was the trial Judge for a case which I brought against Shell (John Alfred Donovan vs. Shell UK Limited). His conduct towards the end of the trial was, in my humble opinion, blatantly biased in favour of Shell. I believe this view would be confirmed by an examination of the latter stages of the trial transcript (of which I have a copy).

Since I risked all on obtaining a fair trial before an impartial independent Judge, it does cause me discomfort to know that Sir Hugh Laddie, as he is now known, works for a consultancy firm which boasts of Shell being a client. He also has other connections with Shell. Only one was disclosed to me prior to the trial.

royaldutchshellplc.com and its sister websites royaldutchshellgroup.com, shellenergy.website, shellnazihistory.com, royaldutchshell.website, johndonovan.website, shellnews.net and shell2004.com are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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