The Judges’ Council was first set up under the Judicature Act 1873. It was chaired by the Lord Chancellor and all the Judges of the Supreme Court were members. The Council continued to function until 1981.
Following serious academic debate, the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane, set up a new Judges’ Council in 1988. This new Council was chaired by the Lord Chief Justice and had a smaller membership of the more senior judges.
In 2002 the Council adopted a written constitution and has subsequently widened its membership to include representatives from all areas of the judiciary including the Circuit and District Benches, Magistrates and Tribunals.
In March 2006 the Council further revised its constitution and membership following the coming into effect of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. This Act and the Concordat vest in the Lord Chief Justice very considerable responsibilities in respect of the judiciary and of the business of the courts of England and Wales. The Lord Chief Justice exercises these responsibilities through the Judges’ Council and the Judicial Executive Board.
The primary function of the present Judges’ Council is to be a body broadly representative of the judiciary as a whole which will inform and advise the Lord Chief Justice on matters as requested from time to time.
In particular it:
- Has a specific statutory responsibility for appointing three members of the Judicial Appointments Commission under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005;
- is consulted to obtain a wide perspective on matters which concern more than one discrete judicial grouping;
- considers and conveys views, ideas or concerns of the wider judicial family;
- provides detailed analysis and consideration of specific matters on which judicial views are sought;
- advises the Lord Chief Justice on policy and other matters as requested from time to time by him or the member of the Judicial Executive Board to whom he has delegated the relevant responsibility.
The present Council meets 3 times a year and is chaired by the Lord Chief Justice. The Judicial Executive Board are members of the Judges’ Council. The other members are selected by the Judicial group or constituency which that member represents. Detailed work is carried out through standing committees and working groups.
In 2004 the Council became a member of the European Network of Judges’ Councils (ENCJ) (external link, opens in a new tab), an organisation set up to promote judicial independence and to analyse and exchange information on issues of common interest such as case management, judicial conduct and judicial functions.
Since the United Kingdom exited the European Union, the Council now holds observer status.
From time to time the Judges’ Council responds to government proposals on issues which have a direct impact on the running of the courts. Judges’ Council published responses can be found in the publications and reports section of this site.