Former solicitor appointed Chief Judge of the District Court

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The Law society of New South Wales has welcomed the appointment of the Honourable Justice Derek Price AM as the new Chief Judge of the District Court of NSW.

President Ros Everett told Australasian Lawyer that the appointment was particularly pleasing as Justice Price began his legal career as a solicitor practicing in Sydney and Dubbo.

“Justice Price has close ties with the Law Society of NSW having served as president of the Orana Regional Law Society before returning to Sydney in the late eighties,” she says.

The judge started his judicial career as a Magistrate of the St James Court. In 1999, he was appointed an Acting Judge of the District Court of NSW, an appointment that was later made permanent.
In 2002, he became the Chief Magistrate of NSW, and in 2006 he was appointed to the Supreme Court of NSW.

Everett says that it’s positive that the Attorney General is open to appointments from all parts of the profession, including the Bar, academia, the Bench and solicitors, and appointments should be made on the basis of merit.

If former solicitors are appointed to judicial office this is because they are the best candidates, she says.
“I think there are a number of reasons former solicitors make good judicial appointments... [They] are conscious of the public service element of their profession and it’s natural they should also want to serve in the role of judge, which is critical to the operation of our justice system…It’s really important that in our court we have a mix of diversity and experience.”
Everett also thanked the outgoing Chief Judge the Honourable Justice Reginald Blanch AM, who was appointed to the role in 1994, for his “outstanding service to the people of NSW”.
Justice Blanch was a respected member of the judiciary and former director of Public Prosecutions, she says.

The latest statistics from the Judicial Appointment Commission (JAC) in their 2013-2014 annual report showed that just 36% of the judiciary in legal exercises were solicitors.

“In six large legal posts reported in 2013/14, 50% or more of recommended candidates were from a solicitor background,” it said. “However, overall, solicitors were less successful than in equivalent exercises in previous years.”