Munby chairs Law Commission

I was delighted to see that the new chairman of the Law Commission is Sir James Munby, a friend since he and I were at college together. He took over from Sir Terence Etherton, an appeal judge, at the beginning of this month

Munby is a High Court judge although he can expect promotion to the Court of Appeal on completion of his three-year term of office.

It is the job of the Law Commission to advise ministers on reform of the law. Etherton demonstrated a particular awareness of the need to report on areas on which the government was willing to legislate and Munby will need to develop his political antennae if his recommendations are not to gather dust. Assessing what legislation is likely to find its way onto the statute book must be particularly difficult in the run-up to a general election.

At the Bar, Munby used to advise the Official Solicitor, the government official who represents the interests of individuals – such as children, patients and prisoners – who cannot look after themselves. Appointed to the High Court bench in 2000, he sat in the Administrative Court and the Family Division, where he has been a forthright supporter of open justice.

He has also shown sympathy for the plight of ordinary people caught up in the legal process: last year I noted a judgment in which he said that divorcing couples who waste their money on legal costs will end up like the parties in Jarndyce and Jarndyce.

Among his fellow judges, he is known for his prodigious energy in writing judgments of great learning but equally great length. He will have every opportunity to put these skills to good use over the next three years.

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