Wednesday 21 February 2018

Academics could make good judges, says Shatter

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

ACADEMICS could be appointed as judges under new reforms being considered by Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

Mr Shatter has said he has been "carefully considering" a more transparent and accountable system of judicial appointments that could promote more diversity in the judiciary.

He told lawyers and political scientists at a judicial studies conference in Dublin that one of the questions he wanted to pose was whether legal academics should be appointed to the bench.

"Some of the most influential members of the US Supreme Court have come from academia," said Mr Shatter at the International Conference on Comparative Judicial Studies at Dublin Castle.

He also told delegates that the Supreme Court decision in the Abbeylara case had "neutered" the powers of parliamentary committees to conduct political inquiries.

The Oireachtas inquiries referendum – which sought to overturn the Abbeylara ruling – was defeated in 2011. However, the Government has not ruled out a re-run of the referendum.

The 2002 Abbeylara ruling by the Supreme Court held that while the Oireachtas could hold inquiries, it could not hold any inquiries which could result in findings of fact and conclusions adverse to the good name and reputation of those who are not members of the legislature.

Mr Shatter told the conference: "From the parliamentary perspective, the judgment has neutered the powers of parliamentary committees to reach conclusions on issues of public importance in respect of matters into which such conclusions are frequently reached by parliamentary committees in other parliaments."


Mr Shatter also said that from the courts' perspective, the constraints on government expenditure to advocate a specific outcome in a referendum was perceived as ensuring that the Government of the day does not have an unfair advantage.

But he added: "From a government perspective, it imposes a restraint on Government from promoting constitutional reform it perceives to be in the public interest and forces it to enter a referendum debate with one hand tied behind its back."

Irish Independent

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