The work of district judges involves a wide spectrum of civil and family law cases such as claims for damages and injunctions, possession proceedings against mortgage borrowers and property tenants, divorces, child proceedings, domestic violence injunctions and insolvency proceedings.
Where they sit
District judges are full-time judges who deal with the majority of cases in the county courts. They are assigned on appointment to a particular circuit and may sit at any of the county courts or district registries of the High Court on that circuit.
A district registry is part of the High Court situated in various districts of England and Wales, dealing with High Court family and civil business. District registries are often co-located at county courts, when the district judges sitting there will case-manage High Court cases.
District judges are appointed by the Queen, following a fair and open competition administered by the Judicial Appointments Commission, and the statutory qualification is a five-year right of audience – the right of a lawyer to appear and speak as an advocate for a party in a case in the court – in relation to all proceedings in any part of the Supreme Court, or all proceedings in county courts or magistrates’ courts.
The Lord Chancellor will normally only consider applicants who have been serving Deputy District Judges for two years or who have completed 30 sittings in that capacity. There are currently over 400 District Judges in post, including 18 who sit in the Principal Family Division of the High Court in London.
District judges do most of their work wearing a normal business suit, but in open court district judges wear the civil robe introduced in October 2008, with blue tabs at the neck and without a wig.
Deputy District Judge
Deputy district judges are appointed by the Lord Chancellor after a fair and open competition administered by the Judicial Appointments Commission, and the statutory qualification is the same as that for appointment as a district judge – a minimum of five years’ right of audience in any part of the Supreme Court, or all proceedings in county courts or magistrates’ courts.
Deputy district judges sit on a fee-paid basis in the county courts and district registries of the High Court for between 15 and 50 days a year. In general their jurisdiction is the same as that of a district judge.
Appointments are for five years, and are automatically extended by the Lord Chancellor for further successive terms of five years – subject to the office holder’s agreement and the retirement age of 70.