Members Biographies

Diane Astin
Housing Member

Diane is currently a member of the CJC Access to Justice Standing Committee and is contributing to the current work on pre-action protocols.

Diane has assisted the CJC on the LASPO Post Implementation Review Part one (Civil Legal Aid Reforms). She has taken the lead in responding to numerous consultations on behalf of the CJC.

Diane teaches at Brunel University London as a Lecturer in Legal Practice. She has previously taught law at the Universities of Westminster and North London.

Diane works for Deighton Pierce Glynn. Previously she has worked at the Public Law Project, Islington Law Centre and Shelter as well as several legal aid firms. She specialises in housing, public law and community care and is the author of the LAG book “Housing Law Handbook”.

Dr Natalie Byrom
Information Architecture and Econometrics Member

Dr Natalie Byrom is a researcher and policy adviser with expertise in justice system reform, data-driven technologies, evidence based policy-making and data governance. She is currently Honorary Senior Research Fellow at UCL Laws, where her research focuses on exploring the implications of data driven technologies for access to justice and investigating new models for enhancing the role of the public in justice data governance.

Between 2015 and 2023 Dr Byrom was Director of Research at The Legal Education Foundation, an independent charitable trust during this time she founded and led the Justice Lab initiative.

Between 2018 and 2020 Dr Byrom was seconded to the Ministry of Justice, part of the UK government as Expert Advisor on Open Data and Academic Engagement. The recommendations arising from her secondment have been accepted by government and are currently being implemented as part of the data strategy underpinning the ongoing digital court reform programme. Her recommendations led to the creation of the Shadow Senior Data Governance Panel, on which she now sits, and the decision to create the state funded and administered judgement repository and publication service at The National Archives.

Dr Byrom sits on the Civil Justice Council’s Futures Group, a body established to advise England and Wales most senior civil judge, the Master of the Rolls, on the impact of technology on the administration of and access to justice. In 2021 she was appointed by the President of the Family Division as data expert to the Family Transparency Implementation Group, a group tasked with improving the transparency of the family courts in England and Wales.

Dr Byrom has given evidence to a number of parliamentary committees including the Justice Select Committee (open justice and constitutional implications of Covid-19) and the House of Lords Constitution Committee on issues relating to data collection, sharing and governance. Her writing on these issues has been published in the legal and national press. She is part of the BBC Expert Women Network and currently sits on the Administrative Justice Council for England and Wales, where she is a member of the steering group. In August 2022 she was appointed to the Civil Justice Council as member for information architecture and econometrics.”

Nicola Critchley
Insurance Member

Nicola recently chaired a working group looking on Low Value Personal Injury Claims which published its final report in December 2020. In 2017, she chaired a working group which looked at Holiday Sickness Claims. She is the official CJC observer at the Civil Procedure Rule Committee and reports to the CJC on relevant CPRC work.

Nicola is a Partner at DWF in Manchester. She has extensive experience of dealing with high value costs litigation, costs budgeting, appeals, fraud, technical challenges, portal dropouts, infant approvals, FRCS issues and bulk test litigation on behalf of insurers, self-insureds, and organisations. Nicola is a member of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers.

Elisabeth Davies
Consumer Affairs Member

Elisabeth is a member of the CJC Access to Justice Standing Committee and the Judicial/ADR Liaison Committee. She was an advisor to the working group on Guideline Hourly Rates.

Elisabeth has worked across charitable and public sectors with a particular focus on dispute resolution and consumer protection. She is currently the Chair of the Office for Legal Complaints which oversees the Legal Ombudsman scheme and is also Chair of the Assurance and Appointments Committee of the General Pharmaceutical Council. She is the former Senior Independent Director and Chair of the Quality Committee of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and the former Chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel.

Elisabeth is currently Chair of the Prisoners’ Education Trust and was previously a Trustee of Support Through Court supporting people going through the court process without legal representation.

Andrew Higgins
Legal Academic Member

Andrew is the chair of the working group conducting a review of Pre-action Protocols. He is a member of the Judicial/ADR Liaison Committee and the CJC Access to Justice Standing Committee.

He is an Associate Professor of Civil Procedure at the University of Oxford and a fellow of Mansfield College. He is currently the General Editor of Civil Justice Quarterly. Andrew previously worked as a solicitor for the Australian law firm Slater & Gordon and was admitted to the Victorian Bar in 2011. He has a DPhil from the University of Oxford and completed the BCL in 2005.

Andrew has published civil procedure related subjects including a book on legal professional privilege. She is a Regional Costs Judge.

Mr Justice Simon Picken
High Court Member

Simon Picken was appointed a High Court Judge in June 2015, becoming one of the Judges of the Commercial Court the following year.

In addition to sitting in the Commercial Court, Mr Justice Picken is authorised to sit in the Financial List and the Administrative Court, as well as in other King’s Bench Division work, including crime.

Mr Justice Picken was educated at his local state secondary school, Cardiff High School, before reading Law at Cardiff University and then Cambridge where he obtained a Starred First Class in the LLM. He was called to the Bar in 1989 and from 1991 practised at 7 King’s Bench Walk in commercial law.

He was appointed a QC (now KC) in 2006 and was made a Recorder in 2005, becoming a Deputy High Court Judge in 2010.

He was the Commercial Law QC to the Welsh Government from 2009 until 2015. He was also the QC Church Commissioner (appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York) between 2013 and 2015.

Between January 2018 and December 2021, he was Presiding Judge of Wales.

He is the Senior Judiciary’s representative on the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary and the High Court representative in the International Association of Judges.

He is co-author of the specialist book, ‘Good Faith and Insurance Contracts’ (4th Ed., 2017) Committee.

District Judge David Robinson BEM
District Judge Member

David was appointed as a District Judge in 2019, having been appointed earlier that year as a Deputy District Judge and having previously sat as a Legally Qualified Chair of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service since 2017. Prior to appointment David worked as a solicitor.

David is the Senior Contributing Editor to Civil Court Practice (“the Green Book”) as well as editing and authoring other civil legal publications.

In the 2015 New Year’s Honours List, David was was awarded the British Empire Meal for services to the community in Cleveland, North East England.

John Sorabji
Barrister Member

Dr John Sorabji is a barrister at Nine St John Street Chambers and an associate professor within the law faculty at University College London (UCL). He is General Editor of The White Book.

HHJ Karen Walden-Smith
Circuit Judge Member

Karen Walden-Smith is the Designated Civil Judge for East Anglia and sits as a Deputy High Court Judge with tickets for the King’s Bench Division, the Administrative Court including the Planning Court, the Business and Property Court, and the Court of Appeal Criminal Division. She was called to the Bar in 1990 and practised in property/Chancery work at 5 Stone Buildings, Lincoln’s Inn. She was appointed a Recorder in 2004 and a full-time Circuit Judge in 2010, initially sitting in crime and then in civil and Chancery. She was appointed as a Senior Circuit Judge in 2013 in the Chancery list at Central London County Court, and additionally became the Designated Civil Judge for London in 2015. She has been a Bencher of Lincoln’s Inn since 2013 and is particularly involved in the scholarship work of the Inn. Karen is keen to promote an efficient, fair and inclusive civil justice system, and is a Diversity and Community Relations Judge, an LIP Liaison Judge and a Social Ambassador.

Rhodri Williams KC
Welsh Member

Rhodri is the Council’s first member representing Wales. He was appointed in 2019 to ensure the Council fulfils its statutory remit of overseeing the civil justice system in England and Wales, particularly given the effects of devolution and the growing divergence of English and Welsh law.

Rhodri is a barrister specialising in EU law, local government law and public and administrative law from Chambers in Cardiff and London. He deals with cases involving both local and regional government, including advising the Welsh Government and other Government Departments and local authorities, in England, Wales and in Northern Ireland.

In 2000, he was appointed to the Attorney General’s list of approved Counsel and to the list of the Counsel General to the National Assembly for Wales and has represented the United Kingdom Government on several occasions before the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg.