No interest in €132,000 position as city's judge
Published 23/05/2011 | 05:00
Judge Tom O'Donnell: promoted to Circuit Court
IT'S the €132,000 job that no one wants.
The District Court in Limerick city has been left without a full-time judge since the promotion of Tom O'Donnell to the Circuit Court, and nobody is interested in replacing him.
Over the past three years, Judge O'Donnell oversaw the vast majority of the 130,594 cases that came through Limerick's district courts.
That figure is close to the caseload at Cork's district courts (152,148) where three full-time judges sit, and twice the caseload of Galway (66,968).
This has led to fears among the legal profession in Limerick that nobody wants to become the city's new judge.
"The perception is the judge's job in Limerick is a very tough job with a heavy workload. The sole responsibility for a judge is just too much," explained one experienced solicitor, who did not want to be named.
District court judges appointed post-Budget 2010 earn an annual salary of €132,300, while those appointed before then earn just under €148,000.
Permanent appointments are made by the Government after consultation with the judge concerned and the President of the District Court.
The majority of serving district court judges were solicitors prior to their appointments.
It is understood the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) is attempting to recommend a candidate for the position to the Government.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said: "The Government will consider the matter further once the JAAB has made its recommendations to the minister."
Shortly before his appointment to Cabinet, Justice Minister Alan Shatter questioned if it was appropriate that judges presided over a district court in an area where they had previously practiced as a solicitor.
The position in Limerick is being filled by other district court judges.
Last week, while overseeing proceedings, Judge Timothy Lucey expressed his dissatisfaction with the situation.
On Thursday evening, after sitting in the court throughout the day, the judge was informed there were still 229 cases to be called. He adjourned all of the TV-licence cases, saying they were not a priority and would not be reached.
"For some reason the lists in Limerick are heavy and it is wrong and counter-productive," Judge Lucey said. He said people's time was being wasted.
Regarding another case last week, Judge Lucey asked: "How can I be expected to give this young man justice if I have to rush through the charge sheet?"