Monday 29 December 2014

We're overlooked for judges' jobs, solicitors claim

Clodagh Sheehy

Published 18/04/2014 | 02:30

SOLICITORS are angry at the “shocking imbalance” in the numbers from their profession being appointed as judges to the High and Supreme Courts.
SOLICITORS are angry at the “shocking imbalance” in the numbers from their profession being appointed as judges to the High and Supreme Courts.

Solicitors are angry at the "shocking imbalance" in the numbers from their profession being appointed as judges to the High and Supreme Courts.

They say the low number of solicitors being appointed to these positions reveals a system that is "prejudiced against solicitor candidates in favour of barristers."

The solicitors believe that the problem lies with government and past practices which no longer serve the public interest.

Law Society director-general Ken Murphy said the statistics show "a shocking imbalance and a lack of diversity which negatively impacts the public interest".

He pointed to the fact that "more than 80pc of the practising lawyers in this jurisdiction are solicitors."

Solicitors have been eligible for appointment as High Court and Supreme Court judges since the Courts and Court Officers Act 2002.

"Suprisingly however just four of the 49 judges appointed to those courts since 2002 were solicitors," added Mr Murphy.

"In other words, 80pc of the legal profession has produced just 8pc of the senior judicial appointments in the last 12 years."

Mr Murphy was at pains to point out that there was "not even the slightest criticism of the highly able barristers who have been appointed to the High Court bench, but why have equally well-qualified and skilled solicitors been overlooked?" he asked.

He insisted there was a "genuine public interest at stake here" and the problem seemed to lie with government.

"The Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) has been approving solicitor candidates and passing their names to Government for consideration.

"The problem seems to arise primarily at government level," said Mr Murphy.

The director-general also pointed out that solicitors have a "more diverse set of relevant legal skills, together with wider experience of law and of life".

Mr Murphy said the "prejudice" against solicitor candidates for senior judicial office is a "relic of the past that operates against the public interest".

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said the current procedure for judicial appointments is under review.

Irish Independent

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