You either have to be brave or mad to row with judges about their pensions, which is exactly what the government has been doing for over a year. But I was deluded to think the matter would end yesterday when the Employment Appeal Tribunal delivered its verdict on the lord chancellor and Ministry of Justice's challenge. Little did I know I'd be spending a staggering three hours listening to counsel and the judge go back and forth about appeals.
And there's still no end in sight.
To recap: the Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed the government's challenge to a ruling that transitional pension arrangements for more than 200 judges amount to unlawful age discrimination. However, the government has been given permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal. Employment Appeal Tribunal judge Sir Alan Wilkie has remitted issues relating to equal pay, indirect sex and race discrimination back to the employment tribunal because these weren't sufficiently addressed. However the tribunal hearings are stayed pending the Court of Appeal outcome.
To complicate proceedings, the judges' hearing was joined to a case involving 5,000 firefighters about their transitional pension protections, which had its own set of diverse outcomes.
How long could the case go on for should the government decide not to surrender? For me, alarm bells started ringing when counsel started discussing when employment tribunal judge Stuart Williams turns the big 7-0 (July 2019, apparently). The sheer complexity of the case was also highlighted by both parties' requests for a transcript of Wilkie's orders.
The House of Lords constitution committee has already said it is deeply concerned that the pensions dispute has damaged judicial morale. Commenting on yesteday's ruling, the ministry said it recognises and values the important role of the judiciary. If that's true, then it should end the row now.