Friday 28 November 2014

Chief Justice wants politics taken out of appointments

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Published 31/01/2014 | 02:30

Chief justice, Susan Denham speaks before the presentation of the annual report of the Courts service for 2011 to Alan Shatter, T.D., Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence at Phoenix House in Smithfield. Pic credit; Damien Eagers 17/7/2012
Chief justice, Susan Denham

THE country's most senior judge has called for a radical overhaul of the judicial appointments process to remove political influence.

The Chief Justice has also called for the introduction of new laws to ensure judges are appointed "on merit".

In a hard-hitting, 97-page document released by the Judicial Appointments Review Committee (JARC) – composed of senior judges – Ms Justice Susan Denham said that as a matter of principle, "political allegiance should have no bearing" on appointments to judicial office.

"It is increasingly clear that the relative success of the administration of justice in Ireland has been achieved in spite of, rather than because of, the appointment system," said the JARC.

SUPPORT

The document has the full support of the Association of Judges of Ireland (AJI) which represents 90pc of Ireland's 154 judges.

Mrs Justice Denham has also called for the establishment of an independent judicial council to oversee issues such as appointments, pay talks and pensions.

Ms Justice Denham warned that "great damage" was being caused by the absence of such a body.

The judiciary is also concerned that high-calibre candidates for judicial office are spurning the chance of becoming judges because of major changes to public and private pensions provisions for new entrants.

Mrs Justice Denham and her colleagues on the JARC have produced a preliminary submission on judicial appointments and other matters affecting the bench, as part of Justice Minister Alan Shatter's public consultation on the judicial appointments process.

But the judges have criticised the consultation process as "flawed and deficient".

The JARC, chaired by Mrs Justice Denham, has called for a radical overhaul of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB). The JAAB was set up in 1995 with the aim of depoliticising the judicial appointments process.

But the Government is not legally obliged to follow its recommendations.

The judiciary has also called on Mr Shatter to convert six "Specialist Judges of the Circuit Court" appointed last year to deal with insolvency cases into full judges of the Circuit Court.

Yesterday, the Irish Independent reported that the judges, earning some €140,000 a year, are doing administrative work as only 19 personal insolvency actions have come before the courts.

Irish Independent

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