Shortage of judges will delay thousands of cases
THOUSANDS of legal cases, including criminal and family-law matters, are to be delayed because there are not enough judges to hear them.
The Irish Independent has learned that a second District Court, which had been assigned to Limerick city and was due to start hearing cases from today, will not now do so as there is no judge available.
Meanwhile, other District Court sittings which had been scheduled for this month in Newcastle West, Co Limerick, and Roscrea, Nenagh and Thurles in Co Tipperary, have also been cancelled because of the lack of judges.
The Irish Courts Service confirmed yesterday that the new court which was due to begin in Limerick today to ease the burden on the city's sole District Court would not be sitting because no judge was available.
In a bid to address the problem, the Government last night agreed to nominate Michael Coghlan, Patrick Durcan and Grainne Malone for appointment as District Court judges, but it is unknown when they will begin work.
These appointments are to fill the vacancies left by Judges William Hartnett, Tom O'Donnell and Michael Patwell.
Speaking last night, Limerick Solicitors' Bar Association president Donal Creaton said his colleagues would be "very disappointed" if the second court did not sit today as scheduled.
"If there are difficulties with proceeding with the second court for Limerick, I would hope that they are short term -- but we will be taking this up with the Justice Minister."
Limerick's District Court is under severe pressure as it deals with a huge workload.
Last year, the city court processed the vast majority of 42,541 cases. For the same period in Cork, three courts with three judges dealt with just over 4,000 more.
A spokesman for the Courts Services confirmed to the Irish Independent that the second court for Limerick would not sit.
"The reason for the delay in commencement of the second court is there is a temporary unavailability of judges due to several vacancies on the District Court bench," the spokesman said.
Chief District Court clerk at Nenagh District Court office, Martin Hanton, has given notice that some local court sittings are being cancelled in Roscrea, Nenagh and Thurles "due to the shortage of judges".
Cases listed to be heard at Newcastle West District Court have now been transferred to Listowel, Co Kerry.