Update to selection criteria for judges

The nation’s key judicial administration body has called for more emotional intelligence and greater diversity among judges.

The Australian Institute of Judicial Administration (AIJA) last week released an updated Suggested Criteria for Judicial Appointments, which it first published in 2015.

The institute commissioned Flinders University Emeritus Professor Kathy Mack to revise the report after renewed interest in the topic, including civil action against Federal Circuit Court Judge Salvatore Vasta.

The revised guide contains broader criteria that considers the personal qualities needed for the changing nature of judging.

“The criteria are deliberately chosen to be more concrete, to reflect the actual nature and variety of judicial work,” Professor Mack said in the report.

“A closer connection with everyday judicial work recognises that more varied skills, and a wider concept of merit, are required, compared to the qualities developed through traditional professional legal practice, especially at the bar.


“Good judging requires a high degree of cultural awareness, involving insight into the needs and perspectives of court participants from many backgrounds, and some direct engagement with or experience of those varied perspectives.”

In late 2021, the publication was referenced in the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report Without Fear or Favour: Judicial Impartiality and the Law on Bias.

“Applying valid criteria through fair and sufficiently transparent processes will demonstrate that judicial appointments are indeed merit-based, rather than reflecting political or other forms of patronage or affected by (implicit) bias for or against certain kinds of candidates,” Professor Mack said.

“This should ensure a highly qualified and diverse judiciary, worthy of the public confidence essential to the judicial function.”

AIJA members include judges, magistrates, tribunal members, court administrators, legal practitioners, academic lawyers and court librarians.

Read the updated report here.

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