Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan has strongly denied that there is any discrimination against Protestants and men in appointments to Northern Ireland's Queen's Bench.
The statement, issued on behalf of the province's Queen's Counsel (QC) selection panel, follows complaints by Alan Blackburn, a prominent Northern Ireland lawyer.
Mr Blackburn has been a junior barrister for the past 35 years despite numerous applications to be appointed a QC or 'silk', as it is known.
He believes that his age, sex, religion and establishment background all help explain why he was not appointed to the senior part of the profession from which judges are normally chosen.
"There is a danger of an imbalance towards Roman Catholics in Queen's Bench and the judiciary," Mr Blackburn alleged.
In a letter to the Queen he points out that his father was a member of British intelligence during the war and was the last clerk of the old Stormont parliament. He writes that many of his relatives were "crown servants" or members of the security forces.
On paper he has impressive qualifications and some other barristers say he has a point.
One well-known QC said: "I am from the nationalist/republican tradition so I have no axe to grind, but it does seem that Alan's face doesn't fit these days.
"Given his courtroom experience it is hard to explain why he has been unsuccessful so often."
Another barrister said he was consulting solicitors himself because he felt he too had been discriminated against because of his perceived community background, gender and age.
A female QC said: "I am not saying it is discrimination but it is very hard to explain why Alan has not been successful before now. He has considerable experience in high-profile cases."
This year's batch of new QCs will be announced in September but applicants were told in June whether they had been successful.
Mr Blackburn made an application for a review on June 21, only to have it rejected three days later.
The reasons given were that he had given limited examples of cross-examination of experts, taking a leading role in Crown Court or written work.
"My application form listed four murder cases, two attempted murders, two cases where I led young barristers, the Jason King case, which was the biggest sex case seen in Northern Ireland. My referees were both senior judges," he said.
A spokesman for the Lord Chief Justice's Office said: "The QC selection panel strenuously rejects the allegations made by Mr Blackburn.
"It is the case that the candidates were assessed on the basis of objective criteria and there are no grounds upon which it could be alleged that a candidate was discriminated against on the basis of his or her religion, age or gender.
"The selection panel, which was chaired by the Lord Chief Justice, comprised a representative from the Bar, one from the Law Society and an independent member who was Felicity Huston, the Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland ... This matter has now concluded."