The government’s failure to make reasonable adjustments enabling a solicitor-judge to do her job effectively resulted in members of the public complaining about delays providing written decisions and letters from senior judges threatening misconduct proceedings, an employment tribunal has heard.
Reading Employment Tribunal is hearing a disability discrimination challenge brought by Zorina Nadine Clarkson Palomares, a fee-paid judge, against the secretary of state for justice.
Clarkson Palomares claims she received numerous letters threatening judicial misconduct for delays in providing written decisions.
On Friday, barrister Julian Allsop, for the government, argued that there was no threat of judicial misconduct in the letters, nor did they say that Clarkson Palomares had committed judicial misconduct.
Allsop said: ‘You know statements have to be written in a certain amount of time… This letter says “excessive delay is capable of amounting to judicial misconduct”. It says “capable of amounting to judicial misconduct”. It’s not saying you have conducted judicial misconduct or threatened you with disciplinary action. It merely points out that excessive delay could amount to it.’
However, Clarkson Palomares replied that the letters were another step in a procedure that could lead to a misconduct investigation. ‘In the context of me having asked for adjustments and not having them, and being aware of the difficulties, I do not believe this is an appropriate way to deal with it.’
She added: ‘I’m not saying the resident tribunal judge should not chase people if there is a delay in written statements. Of course they should if people are not complying with protocols. In these circumstances, I do not believe it was appropriate.’
Allsop argued that being reminded of her protocol-related obligations was not treating her any less favourably, ‘merely reminding you of that what you know’.
Clarkson Palomares disagreed. ‘It is treating me less favourably. Senior judges know of the requests of reasonable adaptions. They know I was saying I was having difficulties. They know of the failings on the part of HM Courts & Tribunals Service to provide the equipment I needed,’ she said.
She acknowledged that the letters did not refer to her disability. ‘It is the consequences of those complaints. My argument is, but for the failures in the behaviour of the respondent I would not have been in the position, I would not have had late statements, these complaints from the public would not have arisen, they would not have led to an investigation of complaints in the complaint procedure.’
She added that the letters had been detrimental to her mental health and she found them 'extremely stressful'.
The hearing continues this week and is due to conclude on Friday.