Duties and Responsibilities of the Chairman of the Jury

Robert Samuel

[A guideline for information only, not New Zealand Philatelic Federation (NZPF) Policy]

In this article I set out certain duties of the Chairman of the Jury, based upon my own experience and observations. Over the years I have worked under many different Chairmen. Invariably where I have witnessed (or experienced) bad judging the blame can be levelled at the Chairman and the judging procedures which have been followed. Good chairmanship results in good judging. The areas where I have observed most problems are in marks sheets not being added correctly, insufficient time being allowed for challenges, the Chairman not overseeing the work and results of the various judging groups, and chairmen being too hasty to simply get the job done without regard to the actual results. If this all sounds a bit on the black side, I hasten to add that most chairmen have carried out their duties in an admirable fashion – although I doubt very much if all chairmen have carried out all the various duties given here. All of us would be guilty of something. I add too what the worst example of chairmanship I have encountered was at an overseas exhibition, not a New Zealand exhibition. My experience at that exhibition has helped considerably in framing these notes. In putting these ‘duties’ forward I do so in the expectation that readers – particularly those who have had experience in Jury chairmanship – may care to agree or disagree with, or add to, what has been written. I am aware too that there may be differences in procedures depending on the size and composition of the exhibition and that these notes have had to be worded to cover these various situations. Having said this, the notes are written primarily with a national exhibition of about 400-500 frames in mind. I have not tackled the question of critiques. That is best left for another discussion. To those who deplore sexist language, I admit to preferring the term “Chairman.” rather than the word “Chairperson”. I note that in Australia the term “Chair” is now being used. I thought a chair is something you sit on.
1.1 The first duty of a chairman is to be impartial. The task of a committee is to reach decisions; the chairman is there to ensure that all committee members have the opportunity to put their case, to control the meeting, and to act in a fair and impartial manner. This does not mean that the chairman cannot have an opinion – but it does mean that he can be outvoted. He should not use his position to force his own point of view. We live in a democracy, not a dictatorship, and in our society democratic principles and procedures govern the conduct of all bodies, from a kindergarten committee to Parliament. The chairman of a philatelic jury has the same role as any other chairman. He is not a dictator and should not, for instance, alter his judges’ recommendations for no other reason that he does not agree with the findings. Yet I have seen this done. The Chairman has to appreciate that it is the judges who actually do the judging and, while he may see things differently, this does not give him the right to overrule the judges – any more than a chairperson of a meeting can count 10 votes in favour of a motion, 2 against, and rule that the motion has been lost!
1.2 The chairman however, is entitled to express his own views. One way of doing this is for the chairman to state that he is “taking off the chairman’s hat“ and – forcefully if he wishes – express his own point of view. But, at the end of this, he must reassume the chairman’s role and, if need be, put the matter to the vote. The chairman must abide by that vote – even when he believes he is right (or even if he is right), and the rest are wrong.
1.3 The Chairman would not normally vote on the allocation of individual awards. However, in cases where votes are tied, the chairman has a casting vote. In voting for the Grand Award and Runner-up it is normal for the Chairman to have a casting vote in addition to his own vote. (Traditionally, where a casting vote is required, the Chairman would exercise his vote in favour of the status quo, i.e. the existing situation. This can result in a situation where a chairman votes one way in exercising his personal vote, but votes the opposite way in exercising his casting vote. It is a brave chairman who votes against the status quo).
1.4 The question arises from this as to whether the Chairman can or should also act as a judge. My own view here is that the Chairman should not normally act as a judge as, in doing this, he cannot be seen to be impartial – particularly if his own judgements are being questioned. I accept, however, that situations can occur (e.g. the late withdrawal of a judge, or lack of expertise in a particular area) when there is no alternative but for the Chairman to assist with judging. I believe that the Chairman has considerable work to do in checking the results, both against previous awards and against his own assessments. He must know exactly what is going on with the judging of all the classes. If he is involved with judging – and particularly if he is involved with judging a large number of exhibits – he will be quite unable to devote time to inspecting the other exhibits, or discussing matters with the other groups. The Chairman has a duty to see that all the exhibits are properly judged, not just those exhibits in which he has a particular interest. The Chairman’s role is more to test-check the results rather than to involve himself in the detailed judging of one or two classes. (At Royal 100 the Chairman and two senior judges examined all exhibits recommended for Vermeil and higher awards, and test-checked some of the lower awards, effectively acting as a separate judging “team”. In the case of smaller exhibitions the Chairman’s role – but probably alone rather than having the support of other judges – is similar)
2.1 As stated above, it is the Chairman’s duty to control any meeting. He must allow full discussion to enable all views to be canvassed. At the same time, he should guard against allowing any one person to dominate the discussion – particularly where this prevents others from expressing their views. If any committee member acts in a disruptive manner the Chairman has the right to request that person to leave the meeting, or to have that person forcibly removed from the meeting. In an extreme case he could call the Police to assist!
2.2 It is wise to remember that, for most judges, philately is a hobby, their time is given voluntarily, and their judging experience is something which should be enjoyed. While our judging must be taken seriously the Chairman should not permit any one person to destroy the pleasure of others. Unpleasantness – and particularly unpleasantness directed at other judges – is something which should be avoided. The appropriate action is to warn the offender that such action will not be tolerated and request an apology. If the person refuses to apologise, or offends, he or she should be asked to withdraw from the meeting.
Pre-exhibition Matters
3.1 The Chairman should first ensure that his appointment is in order. For New Zealand national exhibitions approval of NZPF is required. The Chairman should ensure that this approval has been obtained.
3.2 The Chairman may be asked to select a judging panel, or at least advise upon the composition of this panel. Whatever method is used the final approval of the panel is the responsibility of the exhibition committee. The Chairman’s role is to ensure, as far as possible, that the panel is well balanced with as many areas of expertise as possible covered.
3.3 The Chairman should ensure that all proposed members of the Jury are currently on the national panel, and that there is a reasonable balance between experienced or senior judges and less experienced judges.
3.4 If the Chairman is not happy with the composition of the panel he should communicate his misgivings to the NZPF Co-ordinator. If he is still unhappy, he should resign his position forthwith. After all, it is the Chairman’s signature which will be appended to the exhibition certificates and, unless he has confidence in his judging panel, he could not in all honesty sign certificates.
3.5 A judging panel of three people can judge about 24-30 entries per day. The size of the judging panel will be largely determined by the number of exhibits, and the time allowed for judging. Given an exhibition of 500 frames (i.e. about 120 exhibits) a minimum of 12 judges (4 teams of 3) would be required.
3.6 There should be sufficient time allocated for judging. Ideally, for an exhibition of 400-500 frames, two full days are required for judging. Where an exhibition is open to the public from Friday to Sunday then the Wednesday and Thursday could be set aside for judging. If need be the Friday morning could be utilised for the completion of judging.
3.7 The Chairman should ascertain the judging method(s) to be used. Where marks sheets are prepared the Chairman should ensure that these are in accordance with the stipulated system. (For our national exhibitions it is presently required that the FIP marking systems be used, but with a five point “leniency”).Note: I have judged at two New Zealand national exhibitions where the marks sheets stipulated that judging should be to international standards. In one instance hurried amendments were made by the Chairman; in the other case we (or at least some teams) simply awarded our marks believing these would be later properly equated to national standards. In fact no changes were made and at least some exhibitors received awards made to international standards rather than to national standards.
3.8 The Chairman should ensure that proper facilities will be made available to the judges, that a separate and suitable judging room is provided, and that all necessary equipment will be on hand. He should establish what arrangements have been made for refreshments and meals.
3.9 The Chairman should write to – or ensure that letters are written to – all judges advising them of such practical matters as where and when the exhibition will be held, and when and where they are to meet. It is helpful if judges are told the classes in which they will be judging prior to the exhibition.
Title Pages and Judging Groups
4.1 It is becoming increasingly common for judges to be supplied with the title pages of the exhibits they will be asked to judge. The Chairman should ensure that the system adopted by the organising committee provides for photocopies of these title pages to be received well in advance of the exhibition, enabling them to be circulated to judges about a month beforehand. There is little point in the judges receiving these a couple of days before they are due to depart for the exhibition as this does not allow sufficient time for reference books, etc. to be consulted.
4.2 If title pages are to be sent out before the exhibition then it is necessary for the Chairman to ascertain what judges will be judging what entries well in advance of the exhibition. It is normal to divide the judges into panels of three, with an apprentice being attached to certain of these groups. A senior judge is generally appointed as Group Leader for each group. Note: Over the years there have been many variations of this system. At Zeapex 80 all exhibits were judged by five panels of three judges, and the various judges took turns to act as Group Leader. At other exhibitions each exhibit has been judged by two or more separate panels. The actual system used will largely depend upon the size of the exhibition and the time available for judging. Whatever system is used there should be ample time for all judges to inspect any exhibit or exhibits in which they have an interest, and for ample time to be given for “challenges”.
4.3 As far as possible the Chairman should ensure that judges are placed in areas in which they have known expertise. Note: My worst experience here was being invited to Australia as a specialist judge in literature and postal stationery – only to find that the literature exhibits had already been judged and that I was required to judge postal history and one frame exhibits. While it is appreciated that it is not always possible for judges to be placed in their preferred areas, I believe when a judge is required to judge outside of these areas he or she should be advised of this prior to the exhibition. This is even more important when overseas judges are engaged.
Rules and Regulations
5.1 New Zealand National Exhibitions are governed by our NZPF rules. Judging is in accordance with the FIP General Regulations for the Evaluation of Philatelic Exhibits (GREVs) and Special Regulations (SREVs) and Guidelines for the various disciplines. The Chairman should have copies of these various rules and regulations at his disposal and should be familiar with their content.
5.2 There may be classes which are not covered by the above rules and for which no criteria is given. Here the Chairman should at least have firm ideas of how the classes are to be judged, what criteria (if any) is to be applied, and should have previously discussed this with the appointed Group Leaders
Preliminary Meeting
6.1 The Chairman should chair an opening meeting of judges at which the judges are introduced to each other and any instructions given. The Chairman may wish to emphasise matters he considers appropriate and will advise the timetable for judging.
Judging Procedures
7.1 Normally the judges judge the exhibits and report back their findings – marks and awards – to a meeting convened for this purpose.
7.2 The Chairman should work on the basis that a judging team can – or at least, should – judge about 4-5 exhibits each hour. In three two hour judging sessions a team should be able to judge 24-30 exhibits. The Chairman should check throughout the day to see that teams are completing their task in the allotted time. Where a team is unduly slow (and Thematic judges seem to have the greatest difficulty in keeping to a time schedule) the Chairman may have to seek the help of other judges to ensure that the exhibits are judged or the judges may be required to work overtime. (It is helpful to keep one evening free to allow an additional judging session should this be necessary).
7.3 Once the preliminary judging has been completed the Chairman should allow sufficient time (maybe two hours or more) for the judges to inspect exhibits in other areas. He should then convene another meeting of judges at which the awards are read out. If any judge wishes to challenge any result he should be invited to do so. Those awards not challenged may be accepted as final awards, subject to any “second thoughts” which any judge may have.
7.4 Opportunity should be given for those who have mounted challenges to discuss the matter with the appropriate group or Group Leader. In most cases the challenge will be resolved at this point.
7.5 A second meeting should be held to discuss those awards which had resulted in challenges. Where the award has been amended this should be advised.
7.6 It can happen that despite raising a challenge, the person making the challenge is still unhappy with the outcome. The Chairman should be prepared to accept that some challenges have not been satisfactorily resolved. (At one exhibition at which I judged the Chairman simply announced that all challenges had been satisfactorily resolved and refused any further discussion on the matter. One of my arguments was that an exhibit which had previously and consistently won national Gold and international Large Vermeil awards was worth more than a Silver Bronze! After my initial challenge the Group Leader, reluctantly, increased the award to Silver. As far as I was concerned the challenge had not been resolved. Unfortunately there were no procedures in place to enable further discussion). If there is still a difference of opinion the Chairman should refer the matter to a previously appointed panel of, say, three senior judges. This panel, plus the Chairman, should inspect the exhibit, take into account the comments of the judging panel and the challenger and should make a final decision.
7.7 On occasions a judge may have “second thoughts” about an exhibit, even after judging has been completed. A judge, for instance, may suddenly realise that the exhibit awarded a Gold medal comprised largely forgeries and reprints and is not worth even a Bronze. In such a case the judge should raise the matter with the Chairman. If it is not already too late (for instance, where the awards list has already been published) the Chairman should convene an urgent meeting of judges and, if the points raised are upheld, the award should be altered. (On no account should the Chairman adopt a “legalistic” attitude towards such late challenges and rule that, as the matter has been finalised, no further discussion can take place. As far as is humanly possible major errors need to be avoided).
7.8 Some Chairmen prefer to deal with all awards up to Large Silver level first, and leave the higher awards to be dealt with separately. This may not be necessary, except in the case of a very large exhibition. Still, it is recommended that all judges be given the opportunity to inspect all exhibits nominated for higher awards – and particularly the Gold and Large Gold awards – before these awards are finalised.
Checking the Marks
8.1 Philatelic judges are not renowned as mathematicians. One of the commonest problems is where the marks sheets have been incorrectly added. In one notable instance (fortunately not from New Zealand) the marks added up to one figure, the total shown was a different figure again and the medal award bore no relationship to either figure. The Chairman should ensure that all mark sheets are check-added and that the award indicated in fact relates to this mark. Where differences are noted these should be referred back to the Group Leader. On no account should it be assumed that the total mark is correct and the award adjusted to equate with the mark; it may well be that the award itself is quite correct, but that one of the individual marks has been entered incorrectly on the mark sheet.
8.2 There may be numerous individual mark sheets in existence, often showing marks and recommended awards quite different from the final result. It is important that these sheets be called in and destroyed as, if these sheets fall into the hands of individual exhibitors, they can cause confusion and even argument. Only the adopted mark sheet should be retained and that given to the exhibitor should be free of corrections and alterations.
Expert Committee
9.1 It is becoming increasingly important for there to be an expert committee available to inspect any “dubious” material, particularly New Zealand material. A panel of three or four people should be designated for this purpose. Where any judge has any doubts about any item this should be referred to this panel. (Note: It would be expected that judges appointed to this panel are also members of a recognised expert committee. The panel should have power to co-opt any other judge or available expert to assist.)
9.2 While FIP imposes stern penalties for the inclusion of forged or repaired items not described as such, New Zealand national rules do not provide for any set penalties. However, judges have been traditionally very harsh on exhibits containing forged items and it would be expected that an appropriate deduction of points would be made.
Other helpful duties
10.1 It is normal for exhibitors to be asked to provide details of previous recent awards. The Chairman may have access to exhibition awards lists which may also provide details of previous awards. In future, NZPF, or the Judges Association (since 2022 Philatelic Judges NZ), may keep some form of master list. It is helpful if the Chairman collates these awards – or at least the last three or four awards – and establishes from this a “reasonably expected award”. His summary list may look something like this:

Exhibit No Title Awards Expected Award
123 The Postage Due Stamps of Nigeria S, LS, S S+

This exercise should not be interpreted as a form of “pre-judging“. Indeed, the Chairman (and all judges) should not begin judging with any pre-conceived ideas of the worth of any exhibit. It is merely a means of establishing the past record of an exhibit, to ensure a degree of consistency between our various exhibitions and to help avoid major errors.

10.2 During the exhibition the chairman may make a quick assessment of the exhibit (or at least a selection of exhibits) and add to this schedule his own assessment. His schedule may now appear as:

Exhibit No Title Awards Expected Award   Chairman’s Award
123 The Postage Due Stamps of Nigeria S, LS, S     S+ V
10.3 Where there is a material difference between the judges’ recommendation and either the Expected Award or his own assessment, the Chairman should either question the award, or challenge the award. (At international exhibitions all awards which differ by more than half a grade from the previous international award are automatically challenged). By questioning or challenging the award the Chairman is simply asking the judges to have another look at the exhibit. He may, if he wishes, ask another group of judges to look at the exhibit or place the matter in the hands of the senior panel. On no account should he conclude that just because the exhibit received a certain award previously, it should receive the same award at the present exhibition. Still, by ensuring that exhibits which differ materially from their previous award(s) are closely re-examined major errors should be eliminated.
11.1 Where the “committee“ system of judging is used it often happens that, while there may be consistency within a particular class, there may be a degree of inconsistency throughout the exhibition. It may happen that one group of judges is fractionally too lenient, while another group of judges is fractionally too harsh. The Chairman should oversee the results – or appoint someone to do this. One method is to obtain samples of completed mark sheets after one or two hours of judging and compare these against the “Expected Award“ or against the “Chairman’s Assessment“. Generally a quiet word to the Group Leader is all that is necessary to correct any problem.
11.2 It is the Chairman’s duty to ensure not just consistency throughout the exhibition, but also to ensure – as far as possible – that judging standards are comparable with those of previous New Zealand national exhibitions. At the same time, he should be aware that over the years standards have changed and that we cannot really compare 1997 standards with those of 1967.
11.3 The Chairman too needs to be aware of international judging and exhibiting standards, particularly where exhibits are being “qualified“ for international competition. In general it would be hoped that an exhibit receiving a national Vermeil award would receive an international Large Silver award, i.e. half a grade less.
Special prizes
12.1 There are normally a range of special prizes to be allocated. The Chairman is responsible for the allocation of these prizes – which may be on the recommendation of the judges. Sometimes a small committee is elected or appointed to allocate the various special prizes. The Grand Award and Runner up are normally decided by secret ballot.
12.2 Time should be given for all judges to inspect those exhibits nominated for the Grand Award. It is unfair to ask the judges to vote on such an important matter without first having inspected the exhibits.
The Awards List
13.1 A full awards list will be produced by the Jury Secretary. The Chairman should check this list to ensure that it is correct. Similarly, the proof of the Awards List should be thoroughly checked before publication.
13.2 The Chairman of the Jury should countersign all certificates issued to exhibitors.
14.1 It is normal for one or two apprentices to be appointed to each panel. Apprentices take a full part in judging but, traditionally, do not have voting rights.
14.2 Apprentices should be attached to groups judging in areas where the Apprentice has known expertise. At the end of judging the Chairman should receive a report (written or verbal) from the Group Leader on the performance of the apprentice. Based on this report and his own observations the Chairman should give a written report to the NZPF with any recommendations he cares to make.
15.1 At times the Jury may come across a situation or problem which is not covered by any appropriate ruling. It is important to note here that the exhibition is a New Zealand national exhibition and that while overseas practices may be of assistance, they may not be applicable to the New Zealand situation. Where problems arise a vote should be taken of those judges entitled to vote, and the decision of the judges accepted. Note: In 1988, a decision was required as to whether a literature exhibit could qualify for the Grand Award. The judges voted on this matter and agreed that literature exhibits should not be considered for the Grand Award. In Australia the Grand Award has been made – at least at one exhibition – to a literature exhibit. This would indicate some difference in thinking between New Zealand judges and our Australian counterparts. It would be wrong for a Chairman – particularly if he was an Australian judge – to simply “rule” that the Grand Award should be made to a literature entry. The matter is simply not covered by any available New Zealand rules and a vote of judges would be required.
Final report
16.1 The Chairman should produce a written report on the exhibition, covering the judging, and should submit this to the secretary of NZPF.16.2The Chairman may include in this report any recommendations he considers appropriate. These recommendations should not, however, be adopted as “law“ until considered by NZPF and included in its published rules. Note: Using the previous example, it would be equally wrong for the Chairman to rule that, as it had been decided at a previous exhibition that literature entries should not be considered for the Grand Award, that this ruling automatically applied to the present exhibition. The fact is that this matter has not been incorporated in any rules governing the judging of exhibits at New Zealand exhibitions. A fresh vote would have to be taken – although the 1988 decision could be quoted as a precedent.