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Do friendships affect the impartiality of judges?

A judge’s familiarity with former colleagues from the Bar can be easily misconstrued, as Marilyn Stowe knows from experience

6 October 2015

Fairness is a vital component to an effective legal system. People go through the courts with the expectation that their case will be assessed with fairness. But what happens if a client has doubts? Should ?a judge, for example, socialise with lawyers appearing?before them?

Recently, the High Court heard Welch v Welch [2015] EWHC 2622 (Fam), a complex financial dispute between a former husband and wife. ?In this case, the wife applied ?for the judge to recuse himself from the case. She claimed that he and her husband’s counsel ?‘had some sort of familiarity with each other, and specifically ?that they had both spoken together at some seminar ?a few months earlier’.

The case reminded me ?of an experience in London. ?I accompanied a client to court and everything proceeded as expected during the morning. However, on Fleet Street after lunch, we both saw the judge and our opposing QC walking back to court together, laughing and joking, clearly ve...

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