Chief Justice Warren of the Victorian Supreme Court has called for appointments to the Supreme Court to be made on the basis of merit first, and said that the government must not put a desire for diversity above a desire for a capable, functioning judiciary.
In her inaugural address for Law Week this week, she said,
However, if diversity rather than experience and immediate capability become the dominant fact in appointment considerations, extra judges would be required to maintain the existing work capacity of the courts.
I think this is clearly correct. I am not a big fan of “tokenism”, particularly if a “token appointee” is unable to perform the job to the standard required. Negative stereotypes are reinforced rather than rebutted. No one wins – not the minority group of which the judge is a member, not the judge himself/herself, not the public, not the lawyers.
If I were appointed to a position of power, I would hate to be appointed merely because I was a woman or I belonged to a minority group. I would want to be appointed because I was very good at my job, and others thought that I merited the promotion. Yes, it is important to have diversity, but it is more important to ensure that you have a person who is qualified for the job.
Sometimes I think judges get a rough trot. They get criticised as “rarefied” and as lacking diversity, but those with whom I have come into contact have been humane, intelligent people who do a great job. It’s easy to criticise judgments and findings when you don’t have to hear the evidence and make the decision yourself. It’s an incredibly difficult and stressful job to make a decision which will affect people for the rest of their lives. All judges whom I have met are aware of this, and take their duties very seriously.