High Court judge Seán Ryan set to become president of new Court of Appeal
Judge chaired abuse commission and expert group on abortion
Mr Justice Seán Ryan: has been a High Court judge since 2003. Photograph: Eric Luke
High Court judge Seán Ryan is set to become the second most senior judge in the State after the Government named him president designate of the proposed Court of Appeal.
Mr Justice Ryan has been a High Court judge since 2003. He chaired the child abuse commission from 2003, and more recently chaired the expert group set up to examine options for the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights judgment in A, B and C v Ireland. The group’s report fed into the process that culminated in the passing of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act last year.
Mr Justice Ryan will be formally appointed to his new role once the legislation establishing the Court of Appeal has been enacted.
The new 10-judge court will sit between the Supreme Court and the High Court, and is expected to ease the four-year backlog of cases at the Supreme Court, which for the first time will have the power to select which appeals it hears.
The general scheme of the Court of Appeal Bill, published yesterday, follows a referendum last October in which the proposal to set up a new appeals court was passed by 65 per cent of voters.
The scheme confirms that the new court will have a president and nine ordinary judges, but does not set out pay and pension structures. It states that the president of the new court will become the second-ranking judge after the Chief Justice and will also be an ex-officio judge of the Supreme Court and the High Court.
In a statement, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said he was pleased Mr Justice Ryan had been named and that the new court would be up and running by October.
On the jurisdiction of the new institution, the intention is that in most cases an appeal from the High Court will go to the Court of Appeal, but that it will be open to the Oireachtas to except certain types of decision from the remit of the Court of Appeal in future.
Under the new provisions the Supreme Court will have appellate jurisdiction from a decision of the High Court if it is satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances warranting a direct appeal to it, the precondition being that the decision involves a matter of general public importance and/or the interests of justice.
Decisions of the new court will be final and conclusive unless the Supreme Court certifies that the case involves a matter of general public importance or it is necessary in the interests of justice that there should be an appeal to the Supreme Court.
The scheme also provides for the abolition of both the Court of Criminal Appeal and the Courts-Martial Appeal Court.
The positions on the new court, combined with expected retirements from the High Court, mean the Government will have more than 15 judicial vacancies to fill this year.