Sunday, October 01, 2006

What's in a Name?

The press has had a lot of fun with the sexual triangle involving two immigration judges and their rather fit-looking cleaner. One of the judges has been outed, and both of them may find that the Lord Chancellor will take a dim view of the whole brouhaha.

Until fairly recently, these two judges would have been called Immigration Adjudicators. Many have been appointed to take on the backlog of asylum cases; I know several who are former court clerks. The pay is fairly good and the hours are flexible. Immigration Adjudicator is hardly the stuff of a tabloid headline though, is it? Calling them judges must do wonders for their social cachet, but it does put them in the firing line if anything goes wrong.

I was at a lawyers' dinner just after it had been announced that the Stipendiary Magistrates, a feature of the courts since Fielding's day, were to be renamed as District Judge (Magistrates' Courts) which hardly rolls off the tongue, but does bring in the J-word with all the risks and rewards that entails. The then Chief Magistrate (he's still called that, by the way) said in his speech that the change had come about because Stipes were fed up with being asked "What do you do?" and on giving the reply "I'm a Stipendiary Magistrate" being told:- "Oh lovely. My Auntie Doris is a magistrate in Chipping Sodbury. Do you know her?"

Well lads, you've got a posher name, but as Judge I and Judge J have just discovered, it does have a downside to it.

By the way, the renaming of the stipes means that there is no longer any such thing as a Lay Magistrate, the first word now being superfluous.
We are all JOHs now - Judicial Office Holders. I don't feel any different.

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