Human justice: practical learning as a court judge

I was appointed as a Paid Immigration Adjudicator (now known as a Court Judge) in 1998 and am currently a Designated Immigration Judge based in Taylor HouseLondon.

When I started in court, someone told me that I would never have to go on vacation again because the whole world would come to me – which turned out not to be far from it. truth. Human interest is a ceaseless pleasure.

My Journey to Immigration Court

After 20 years as a non-litigation civil lawyer in private practice, I felt a little jaded with a regime of property, wills, trusts, and probate work.

I investigated paid judicial appointments and applied for my first job as an immigration judge because the job description placed little emphasis on litigation experience (which I had none). any).

To my surprise and delight – although I admitted during the interview that I knew nothing about immigration and asylum law – I was nominated.

After a few sessions, I decided that being an arbitrator was more interesting and enjoyable than being a partner in a law firm.

I completed the minimum number of sessions to be eligible for salaried appointment just as a salaried competition was launched.

In 2004, I successfully applied to the first competition for the newly created position of Immigration Judge Designate.

My position included a management and mentoring role. This was important as immigration and asylum law became more complex – in part due to increased appeals and immigration developing a higher public and political profile – and more paid judges were appointed.

Fairness and Understanding

Being a judge is a huge responsibility.

Many of the decisions I make will affect not only the appellant in the case for the rest of his life, but also his children and grandchildren. It is a great privilege to be entrusted with such momentous and far-reaching decisions.

For me, it is important to:

  • hear the appeal fairly and equitably
  • make a good decision
  • articulate the reasons in a well-written, non-appealable decision

Judges need to know the academic or technical aspects of the law, but also see how their application of the law to a particular case will work in real life.

“Practical experience” is an essential quality of a good judge who, while maintaining his independence and impartiality, must understand the humanity of all those (parties, witnesses and lawyers) who appear before him.

Lawyers have the professional discipline to know that, when giving advice, they must also advise:

  • how these tips should be put into practice
  • what difficulties the customer may encounter further down the line

Experienced attorneys understand their clients’ issues and the need to explain the law to them in a way that makes sense in real life.

Learn from other judges

In my view, judicial decisions benefit from the fact that judges can discuss troubling or difficult aspects of a case with colleagues from diverse backgrounds and with a variety of life experiences.

In the field of immigration, it has long been recognized that a person from a minority background might have a better understanding of the cross-cultural issues faced by callers.

For many years I have had discussions with fellow immigration judges who are an extremely diverse group. These discussions were invaluable in developing my knowledge and understanding and therefore helped me make better decisions.

Prepare candidates to think like judges

I had training responsibilities both as a lawyer and a judge and it seemed natural to me to apply to be a facilitator of the PAJE program when it was launched in 2019.

Ultimately, PAJE is a program delivered by judges for aspiring judges. It focuses on the inner workings of applying and participating in the competition process.

The program offers me the opportunity, I hope, to give candidates a taste of judicial life – and to try to show that there is no mystique or mystery in being judge.

To be successful in a judicial competition, candidates must be determined, resilient, hardworking, and committed to applying the law fairly and equitably as independent judges.

Candidates for the judiciary must also show that they can think like a judge and not like a lawyer (whose function is too one-sided).

It’s equally important to understand that you can do this regardless of your background or your chosen path to becoming a lawyer, and if you don’t pass one competition, you should try another.

Just as people have different backgrounds, they have or plan to have different career trajectories and I believe the PAJE experience is useful for anyone seeking their first judicial appointment, even those considering the High Court.

Paul’s advice for aspiring judges

If you are considering becoming a candidate for the bench, you should make extensive use of available resources, including:

  • opportunities to follow judges
  • awareness-raising events organized by the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) and the various professional organizations involved in the PAJE
  • the judicial careers portal

As for the competition itself, carefully read all JAC information about the process. This will provide valuable insight into the qualities, experience and knowledge the JAC hopes to find.