Should we have specialist judges?

Rob O’Neill in the SST reports:

In his “Trust Busting” paper, Molloy cited a series of cases that he said “raise disturbing questions of systemic integrity”.

He complained about New Zealand’s “one judge fits all” approach to law, where the legal profession fails to insist counsel should not argue cases in areas where they have no competence, and parliament fails to insist judges sit on cases only where they have acknowledged expertise.

“Parliament continues to fail to organise the High Court into divisions dealing with crime, family law, equity [trusts and fiduciary matters] and other general litigation,” Molloy said.

He compared the approach to having a gynaecologist performing brain surgery, or electrical engineers designing viaducts. That judges are allocated “like cabs off a rank”, he said, is “deplorable”.

Molloy said counsel would be in breach of their duty of care and exposed to claims of negligence were they to litigate in areas beyond their expertise. Yet judges often sit on cases they should not.

I’ve heard this complaint several times – that Judges are all meant to be generalists, rather than make the best use of their specialist skills.

I wonder what the rationale for the status quo is?

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