JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE: Schofield revisited
Six years after Chief Justice Schofield’s removal from office, a proposed amendment of the Judicial Service Act 2007 seems to partly vindicate his concerns.
The circumstances leading up to Schofield’s CJ removal can be found in Re: Chief Justice of Gibraltar  UKPC 43.
In 2006 Schofield CJ, had complained about the intended substitution of the office holder of Chief Justice by the President of the Court of Appeal to head the Gibraltar Judiciary. He had also submitted that the Chief Justice should chair the Judicial Service Commission (“JSC”) or not be a member at all.
However by Section 57 of the Gibraltar Constitution Order-in-Council 2007 the President of the Court of Appeal was designated to head the JSC with the CJ to sitting as a member. Section 6 of the Judicial Service Act appointed the President of the Court of Appeal as “President of the Courts of Gibraltar”
Now, a Bill to go to the Gibraltar Parliament published on the 27th August 2015 provides that the Chief Justice of Gibraltar should again be the head of the Judiciary here.
Charles Gomez was the instructing solicitor of Chief Justice Schofield’s legal team in the Reference to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. Reacting to the new Bill, he said:
“I think that the proposed amendment partly vindicates Chief Justice Schofield’s concerns. His view was that as the most senior resident judge in Gibraltar the Chief Justice should be the head of the Judiciary as had been the case since the office was established in 1720. However, the replacement of the President of the Court of Appeal by the Chief Justice as Chairman of the JSC would need an amendment to the Constitution itself. This can only be done by Her Majesty the Queen in Council.”
The current Chief Justice is Gibraltarian jurist Anthony Dudley CJ, who replaced Schofield CJ. The President of the Court of Appeal is erstwhile English Court of Appeal judge the Rt. Hon. Sir Paul Kennedy.