The Supply of Judicial Labour: Optimising a Scarce Resource in Australia

Oñati International Institute for the Sociology of Law
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 2017, 7 (4), pp. 847 - 878 (30)
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
Developed societies generate a multitude of controversies between their members, which need to be resolved fairly if society is to function well. Judicial officers play a central role in that process by hearing and determining disputes according to law, but they are costly and their long tenure entrenches labour market rigidities. This is an inconvenience for modern governments, as they attempt to keep the wheels of justice turning, while facing budgetary constraints that drive them to seek ever greater cost-efficiencies. This article surveys the ways in which governments in Australia have sought to optimise the judicial labour force by creating a more flexible and cost-effective supply. The system of justice that has evolved in response to these developments is a complex one, with many complementary parts. There is no unique solution to the question of how many judicial officers society needs to quell disputes because this goal can be achieved in different ways. But great care needs to be taken to ensure that government action to find flexible sources of labour to meet the demand for judicial dispute resolution does not come at too high a price in terms of respect for the rule of law.
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