Don: Let lawyers apply to be judges

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 20 Apr 2008

KUALA LUMPUR: Senior lawyers should be allowed to apply to the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) for the job of a judge.

Constitutional law expert Prof Shad Faruqi proposed that senior lawyers be allowed to apply to the JAC, which is to be set up to help the Prime Minister choose judges.

He said this was because some lawyers might be capable but did not have the “public relations” or people backing them. This was also practised in Britain, he said in an interview.

Britain’s JAC, an independent body set up in 2006 to take over the selection of judges from the Lord Chancellor, selects candidates based on merit through fair and open competition and from the widest range of eligible candidates.

On the selection of judges, Prof Shad said the net should be cast wide and law academicians should be considered for apportionment, for their experience in legal matters.

He also said at least one lay member and an academician should sit in the JAC.

The academician could read judgments and provide scholarly opinions while a layman, experienced but is not a lawyer, could provide a layman’s perspective as the appointments of judges affect the people and posterity, he said.

Under the Federal Constitution, the Prime Minister consults the Chief Justice before advising to the King on appointments of judges.

In addition, the Court of Appeal president and the Chief Judges are consulted on appointments to their courts. The Chief Ministers of Sabah and Sarawak are consulted for the appointment of the Chief Judge of the High Court in the two states.

“Perhaps it wasn’t working too well,” he said.

Prof Shad said the JAC should include the Prime Minster’s present counsels, the Attorney-General and at least one person from the Bar Council.

In Britain, the Lord Chancellor has the discretion to accept or reject the commission’s choice but must give reasons for rejecting or requiring a reconsideration of a selection.

If there is a rejection, the JAC will have to consider other candidates. The Lord Chancellor will forward the names he has accepted to the Prime Minister.

Prof Shad also hoped the establishment of the JAC would result in a balance between judges appointed from among those serving in the Attorney-General’s office and those from the Bar Council.

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