New Court of Appeal seeks more judges to reduce legal delays
The Court of Appeal, set up to relieve a four year backlog at the Supreme Court, needs at least four new judges to process its heavy workload.
The 10-judge court, led by its President Mr Justice Sean Ryan, has cleared hundreds of civil and criminal appeals since it began hearing cases just over a year ago. It has "surpassed all expectations" according to the recent Smith & Williamson annual survey of Irish law firms.
The new court is receiving an average of 60 new civil appeals every month - as well as dealing with a backlog of cases referred to it by the Supreme Court.
It has now put in place plans to facilitate a second court to hear civil appeals, in order to reduce waiting times in this area.
The Government, which faced reputational damage and potential financial penalties over court delays, is expected to accede to the request for further judges, given the Court of Appeal's success in reducing waiting times and its potential to have a positive influence on external investment decisions.
"The request for additional judges is under consideration," said a spokesperson for Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who attended yesterday's official opening of the new Court of Appeal complex.
"It should be noted that the Government recently approved a proposal to increase the number of ordinary judges of the High Court by two and the necessary enabling legislation is being progressed".
President Michael D Higgins officially opened the new Court of Appeal building in the Four Courts yesterday.
President Higgins said the project, from conception to delivery, was "an exemplary blend of judicial, political, administrative and technical skills" which will stand the test of time.
"It is in society's interest that we take seriously the legal maxim 'justice delayed is justice denied," he said.
"Our citizens are best served when appeal cases are dealt with expeditiously, fairly and timely," he added.
The Court of Appeal was established last year following a referendum in 2013 in which more than 65pc of voters approved its creation.
The court, situated in theformer public records building, was refurbished at a cost of €3m. The new court, which replaced the former ad hoc Court of Criminal Appeal, hears all civil and criminal appeals, leaving the Supreme Court to deal with cases of national and constitutional importance.
The court inherited 660 cases from the CCA and had taken on 287 new appeals up to last July.
280 have been disposed of and all cases ready for hearing are listed for hearing next term.
On the civil side, Judge Ryan said the total number of civil appeals disposed of was 468.
Judge Ryan said he and his colleagues had achieved a remarkable amount in a short space of time. The Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Susan Denham, said the occasion was a significant one for the people of Ireland, who decided there should be a Court of Appeal.
Judge Denham said it was an important day for all involved in the law, adding that the new judges of the court had "done trojan work on this great project for the people of Ireland".
The opening was attended by a number of serving and retired legal figures including former Chief Justice, Mr Justice Thomas Finlay, whose daughter Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan is a member of the Court of Appeal.
Judge Denham paid tribute to Mr Justice Finlay who, 21 years ago, first asked the Government to consider a new relief court. Judge Finlay presented the first draft of a Court of Appeal bill which finally came to fruition last year.