Key figure in Singapore’s growth as a global arbitration hub
When Singapore set out in 2003 to become an international arbitration hub, Judith Prakash was the first judge appointed to hear arbitration cases brought before the Supreme Court. Widely respected for her expertise in commercial law, particularly shipping matters, Judith was named Judicial Commissioner in 1992 and became a Supreme Court Judge three years later. She was the second woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court Bench.
A newspaper report on her appointment as a Supreme Court judge in 1995 noted that lawyers who had appeared before her when she was a Judicial Commissioner said that she displayed “a sharp mind and was adept at presiding over complex commercial cases”.
Born in the United Kingdom in 1951 as the elder child to journalist and writer Gerald de Cruz and his wife Coral, Judith attended pre-university at Raffles Girls’ Secondary School in 1968.
She was a formidable debater and participated in the first inter-school televised debate in 1969.
Interviewed for the book The Life and Times of Gerald de Cruz, Judith said that it was her father who encouraged her in debating at school and convinced her of the intellectual joys of studying law at university. Her younger brother Simon said that Judith was “the smart one, guaranteed to succeed, and steady, followed all the rules, and never caused any trouble.”
She graduated from the then University of Singapore in 1974 with First Class Honours in Law. She began her legal career in 1975 as a legal assistant at M/s Chor Pee & Hin Hiong, moving the following year to Drew & Napier. Two years later, in 1978, she became a partner in the firm, specialising in shipping and commercial law. Judith was also a tutor at the National University of Singapore in family law from 1974 to 1976.
Prior to her appointment to the Bench, Judith was active in various committees, being a member of the Criminal Law Advisory Committee (1984 to 1988), a member of the Law Society sub-committee dealing with laws which discriminate on the basis of sex (1986 to 1989) and of the sub-committee on the Securities Industry (1990-1992).
In 1991, she was part of the sub-committee that, after reviewing the arbitration laws, made recommendations that led to the enactment of the International Arbitration Act.
Judith chairs the Law Reform Committee of the Singapore Academy of Law, playing a leading role in the submission of recommendations to the authorities on areas in need of legislation and on the reform of existing laws. She is also the chair of the Publications Committee of the same body.
Outside of the legal arena, she has chaired the Raffles’ Girls School Board of Governors since 1996. For her contributions to Raffles’ Girls School, she was awarded the Public Service Medal in 2005 and the Ministry of Education 2014 Gold Award for Service to Education. Judith is also an advisory board member of the Singapore Management University and a Term Trustee of the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA).