We had a case listed for a three day hearing on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week. On Tuesday afternoon the Employment Tribunal rang up and said that the hearing venue had changed from venue a to venue b, which are approximately 35 miles apart. Needless to say our Counsel was not too impressed having just booked a hotel room near to venue a. Having got over the thought of having an additional 70 miles added on to our daily drive, the Tribunal delivered a further bombshell at 5.30 pm.
The Tribunal rang and said that the Employment Judge who was to hear the case had recused themselves as he or she had instructed the Solicitor’s firm acting for the other party on a work matter and that there were no other judges available. I have assumed that the recusal was based on an appearance of bias although that was not stated on the phone.
Is this a proper basis for a recusal though? It seems to me to me that the employment law profession is a relatively shallow pool and the chances of an Employment Judge having had professional dealings with a representative is not a remote possibility. Further all the cases on bias talk about the Employment Tribunal knowing any of the “members of the public” involved in the case. Does the fact that an Employment Judge has instructed a firm of Solicitors on a completely separate matter that is ongoing rule out that Employment Judge from hearing any claims involving that firm?
If it does rule the Employment Judge out, then it does beg the question as to how the Employment Tribunal service ended up allocating the case to be heard by that Employment Judge, given his or her connection to that firm. Our Counsel suggested a wasted cost letter to the Ministry of Justice. So will let you know how we get on with that.