Saturday 17 February 2018

Family first as High Court president to retire early

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns
Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

The President of the High Court will retire several months ahead of schedule to spend time in New Zealand with his family including a newborn grandchild he has yet to meet.

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, who has served for six years as the President of the High Court, will hold his last court session on December 18 next when formal tributes will be paid.

The Taoiseach, Attorney General and Justice Minister had already been advised that Judge Kearns, who turned 70 earlier this year - the compulsory retirement age for all judges appointed after 1996 - may opt to retire early.

Yesterday Judge Kearns told a vacation sitting of the High Court that he intended to visit his family and grandchildren in New Zealand in December and his decision to retire would give him the opportunity for a prolonged stay there.

Judge Kearns and his wife Eleanor have four adult sons, one of whom lives in Auckland.

Judge Kearns, appointed to the High Court and the second most senior judge in the country following his appointment as President six years ago, said 17 years was a long time to be a judge and knowing when to go was extremely important. Mr Justice Seamus Noonan will take over the judicial review list in the new legal term next October, and he would continue to hear cases until his retirement

A graduate of UCD and King's Inns, Judge Kearns has maintained a discreet public profile and was associated with the PDs during the period before he was appointed to the High Court.

He chaired the Referendum Commission, which ran the public information campaign for the referendum on Irish citizenship.

As a High Court judge, Judge Kearns presided over the then three-judge Court of Criminal Appeal decision to quash the conviction of Mayo farmer Padraig Nally for shooting dead a Traveller who came on to his property.

And it was Judge Kearns who issued the evacuation order on bankrupt property developer Tom McFeely's Priory Hall development because of a range of problems relating to fire safety.


Judge Kearns has earned praise on and off the bench for his handling of the sprawling High Court list, and his management of major changes to the judiciary in recent times including the creation of the Court of Appeal.

The establishment of the Court of Appeal saw many of the High Court's most experienced judges leave to fill vacancies on the new court.

The High Court, which has a complement of 36 judges, is currently down two judges following the elevation of Ms Justice O'Malley from the High Court to the Supreme Court.

And last July the Government appointed High Court Mr Justice Brian Cregan to replace Judge Daniel O'Keeffe as Chair of the Commission of Investigation into certain transactions conducted by the IBRC (formerly Anglo).

Irish Independent

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