A former barrister who accuses Supreme Court justice Lord Briggs of discrimination and misogyny has failed in a court challenge to have her complaint reassessed.

In Lonsdale, R (on the application of) v The Judicial Appointments and Conduct Ombudsman, claimant Marion Lonsdale tried unsuccessfully to judicially review a decision that the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) had made about her complaint against Lord Justice Briggs.

Lonsdale, who practised for 30 years until 2013, has spent the past decade contesting professional misconduct findings made against her and subsequent appeals against the decision. Having already been refused judicial review of the findings, she sought permission to challenge that decision (and a related costs ruling) but her case was dismissed by, as he was, Lord Justice Briggs. He also refused a subsequent application to re-open the application.

Lonsdale complained to the JCIO, alleging judicial misconduct by Briggs LJ on six grounds, but her complaint was rejected because it related to the judge’s decision-making and was therefore out of its remit.

The challenges continued: next Lonsdale complained to the ombudsman about the decision of the JCIO. When that complaint was not upheld, the matter came before the High Court in April.

Lawyers for Lonsdale accepted her complaint could only be entertained if it contained an allegation of misconduct but submitted that misconduct had taken place in her case. It was submitted the Ombudsman 'irrationally failed’ to understand the failure of the JCIO. She repeated her claim that Briggs LJ had been dishonest, failed to recuse himself as he should have done, and treated her unfavourably because she was a woman. If the decision was made for lack of evidence, it was argued, that was because Lonsdale had not had the opportunity to provide adequate details.

The ombudsman told the court that it was entitled to conclude that the JCIO followed an appropriate process and correctly identified whether the complaint related to misconduct. The authority had a ‘limited ambit’ expressly forbidding it from reviewing the merits of any decision of the JCIO or an order of the judge being complained about. 

In judgment, Anthony Elleray QC, deputy high court judge, said Lonsdale did not have arguable grounds to challenge the ombudsman’s report. Her complaint did not assert a failure to comply with prescribed procedures and the ombudsman did not have to intervene and did not act irrationally.