City lawyers broadly support a new policy favouring judicial candidates from minority groups when two candidates are of equal merit – but there are still doubts about how it can work.
The City of London Law Society confirmed it has given broad backing to the ‘equal merit’ provision.
The Judicial Appointments Commission has asked for views on an amendment in the Crime and Courts Act, which received royal assent in April. The legislation allows the JAC to prefer one candidate over another with the aim of promoting diversity, provided both candidates are of equal merit.
Critics have questioned how two candidates can be regarded as exactly equal and suggested the policy could lead to the best applicants missing out.
The CLLS response, prepared by its litigation committee, said the provision should apply, but warned it was wrong to use it on a wide list of candidates.
The JAC had proposed creating a ‘zone’ of applicants above and below a notional ‘cut-off line’ and selecting candidates from that group with the equal merit procedure.
In its response submitted earlier this month, the CLLS said: ‘We need to be clear what applying the “equal merit” provision means.’