Role of a Court of Appeal Judge
It is true of judges at most levels, and certainly those in the Court of Appeal, that far more work has
to be done out of court than in court. A judge writes about working in the Court of Appeal.
Outside the courtroom
In order to ensure effective use of court time, the papers for every case have to be read in advance;
and many cases at this level are of such complexity or importance that time has to be taken in
considering the submissions and preparing a written judgment after the hearing rather than
delivering an immediate oral judgment. In addition to the work of judging individual cases, most
members of the Court of Appeal have additional responsibilities within the Court of Appeal or within
the wider court system or on other bodies related to the justice system.
No ‘typical’ day
This means that there is no ‘typical’ day. Every judge has at least 1 day a week kept free for
reading case papers or judgment writing. On days when a judge is sitting in court, cases are generally
listed for hearing between 10.30am and 4.15pm, with a break for lunch between 1.00pm and
2.00pm, though the judge sometimes sits earlier in order to hand down a written judgment or to
hear a short application. Additional preparation and judgment writing, together with meetings and
other work commitments, have to be fitted round these sitting times. It is frequently necessary to
work at evenings and weekends in order to get everything done.
Very broadly, the legal term is divided for administrative purposes into slots of some 3 weeks
each. In a term of 12 weeks a judge who covers the full range of work might expect to have 2 slots
in the Civil Division, one in the Criminal Division and one in the Divisional Court. The work itself is
varied and interesting, and sometimes very challenging. Most of the cases raise issues of law, but
many are also of very real human interest. It is striking how often one reads reports of them in the
newspapers or sees news items about them on television.