Chief Justice Carmody and the “merit principle”

18 Aug 2014

What are we looking for in judges, and particularly in a chief justice? The controversy over the Queensland government’s appointment of Tim Carmody QC helps clarify the issues

What qualities make for a good judge? Are certain knowledge and skills enough to justify an individual’s appointment to the bench, or is something more required? What might that be – seniority, reputation, personal characteristics that diversify the judiciary? And who needs to be satisfied that the candidate is the right one – the government, whose decision it is, or the judiciary, who must accept the individual into its ranks?

These perennial questions have acquired a particular piquancy in the aftermath of the intense controversy surrounding Tim Carmody QC’s appointment as chief justice of Queensland. Carmody was sworn in at a private ceremony on 8 July but only received his public welcome on the first day of this month. It was then that the new president of the state Bar Association, Shane Doyle QC, said the “controversy is now, or should now be, in the past.” It is doubtful that a line can be drawn under the affair as crisply as that, but it is true that only now, with Carmody seemingly ensconced, can we take stock of months of turmoil in Brisbane…

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