During the July session of the House of Lords Constitution Committee inquiry into the Judicial Appointments Process, it was suggested that giving politicians a role in the appointment of judges would mean a more representative judiciary. Professor Alan Paterson from the University of Strathclyde suggested that:

“There’s an argument for an increased role for parliament and a role for more parliamentarians to become involved through pre-appointment confirmations  . . .  In Canada, appointments were transformed because politicians said they would like to see a female and ethnic minority candidate who can do the job.”

Such a view  caused some concern amongst commentators who are unwilling to have politics play a part in judicial selection. However, despite Professor Paterson’s example of Canada as a country where the involvement of politicians in the appointments process has assured a more diverse bench, an article in the Canadian Lawyer’s Weekly suggests that having MPs on a selection panel does not necessarily lead to a more diverse or politicised bench.

The article interviews Brent Rathgeber, a Conservative MP on the selection panel tasked with picking six candidates for two vacancies on the Canadian Supreme Court. Rathgeber has stated explicitly that he is not looking for judges that are known to be philosophically in tune with the current Harper government:

I think there is a real danger in trying to politicise a court, for many many reasons . . . because ultimately the Supreme Court will have to pronounce on the legislation as promulgated by the government of the day“.

Rathgeber has also said that he will not take into account gender or ethnic balance :

Ethnic, and racial and gender based considerations I am going to try and base zero weight on . . . certainly my evaluation will be based on merit based criteria: knowledge, skill, writing skills, readability, even bilingual capacity will be ranked positively in my mind“.

Certainly, Rathgeber’s attitude is not shared by all members of the selection panel (other members have said that they intend to take into account gender balance), but his statements do show that the assumption that having more parliamentarians involved in the judicial selection process will result in greater judicial diversity is not guaranteed. MPs are likely to be as divided over the best way to ensure a representative and accountable bench as members of the legal profession, and involving parliamentarians in the judicial appointments process could have some unpredicted consequences.