Who would want to be a judge now? This is not a rhetorical question. Apart from the obvious advantages of a reasonable salary and pension, who would want to experience the day-to-day stress and frustration of the job, particularly as a district judge?
I remember vividly when, as a recorder, I was approached by counsel seeking judicial appointments as circuit judges. I gave them good references but cannot recall any of them making it. After that there was a rush of applications from counsel to instead be appointed district judges. They could see the writing on the wall with the demise of legal aid, and that there would be thin pickings at the bar. No doubt they considered this the least-worst alternative.
Since then there have been wholesale cutbacks in staff and multiple court closures. As an example, whereas there used to be a pleasant cafe at Swindon County Court and a modest judges’ dining room, both have disappeared.
This is indicative of a mean attitude generally to the judiciary; a sort of grudging acceptance of them as a necessary evil. As a consequence, there has been increasing pressure on listing to get a quart into a pint pot wherever possible. As a district judge I met described it: ‘They would take the nib off your pencil if they could.’
What about the day-to-day work? It is a comparative rarity now to find a competent advocate (solicitor or counsel); rather, one sees a daily diet of litigants in person, often without a clue about procedure. This is bound to be very wearing, particularly where there is no regular usher or court clerk to provide buffer and relief. Is it any wonder district judges are retiring early?
John Greenwood, Retired recorder, Chippenham, Wilts