General Legal Advice Clinic

Guest Speaker: Chris Mills – A day in the life of a District Judge

On 5th October, Chris Mills took time out of his busy schedule to come and talk to final year law students about what a typical day as a district judge consists of. It is safe to say that this was a subject that we knew very little about!

Chris informed us that as a district judge he deals with  cases in the county court, covering mainly civil and family matters. Additionally, he has the power to deal with bankruptcy cases as well. As a district judge Chris has the power to disbar directors and the power to send to prison. This is something that was particularly intriguing to most of the student advisers.

At the beginning of the day, the district judge will receive a collection of files to read through in preparation for the cases they will hear throughout the day. This gives them an insight and advance warning of the types of cases that will appear before them during the course of that day. This might be rental and mortgage possession matters, small claims hearings, and a range of family matters including contact with children.

The most fascinating fact that perhaps most people do not know is that district judge’s sits alone, apart from the company of an usher showing the parties in and out. The layout is just desk to desk, with the district judge sitting at the front of the room, and the parties sitting directly in front of them with only a wooden gate separating the two. Remarkably enough, those parties known to be dangerous or likely to cause a scene in the court room, a red dot is marked on the file to make the judge aware before the case appears before them. Furthermore, in the event of an emergency, there is a panic button underneath the desk just in case things get out of hand.

Once a decision has been made by the district judge, the parties can appeal but they have to ask of the judge for ‘leave to appeal’ if they do not like the decision made. The district judge can refuse this. But if they allow this, there is no appeal allowed against the finding of the facts, it must be against matters of law.

On behalf of us all, we would like to thank Chris Mills, for coming in and talking to final year law students about what he does on a day to day basis, providing informative and interesting information that many of us did not know. It was fascinating to gain an extensive understanding into the life of a district judge and to know that any of us could be in that job in the future, should that be what you are aiming for.

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