TRIALS would last longer if people without court room or advocacy experience were appointed Supreme Court judges, Bar Association chairman Ronny Wong Fook-hum said yesterday. He was rejecting a claim by the Government and the Law Society that litigation and advocacy experience was 'not essential' for a person to be appointed a High Court or Court of Appeal judge. High Court judges were responsible for the legal system and the upholding of the rule of law, and solicitors spending 10 years on, say, conveyancing would not have the credibility to sit for the bench, he said. The Government is intending to amend the law to make solicitors with 10 years' experience eligible for direct appointment to the Supreme Court. At present, only barristers and government-employed solicitors with 10 years' experience are eligible to join the bench of the Supreme Court. But Mr Wong argued that judges without advocacy and courtroom experience might not understand the arguments presented by lawyers in court and trials might be delayed due to technical and procedural problems. The debate should be about what was the basic requirement for a High Court judge. The line should not be drawn according to which legal profession a person belonged to, he added. He was joined by legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing and Martin Lee Chu-ming QC, who doubted whether qualified people would be admitted under the new proposal. Despite the Bar Association's opposition, Director of Administration Richard Hoare said arguments forwarded by the Law Society were convincing. He urged legislators in the legal services panel meeting to distinguish eligibility from suitability on appointment of judges. While the pool of lawyers in private practice who would be eligible for appointment would be increased from 240 to about 1,240, whether they were suitable for appointment would be assessed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). But Mr Wong accused the Government of ducking responsibility, saying it would give the JSC, which operated in private, too much power. He said it was difficult to apply the criteria of advocacy or litigation experience when considering an eligible candidate. Robert Allcock, the Legal Department's deputy solicitor-general, said the JSC could follow British guidelines - including consultation with the legal profession, interviews and reports on the courtroom experience of the applicant - in deliberating appointments. He said there were High Court judges who had no advocacy experience and under the existing law, solicitors working for the administration were eligible for appointment as well. The administration will make a final decision by the end of this year, after listening to the views of the two legal bodies.