State’s best paid lawyers would make terrible judges, says FF barrister
Wexford TD James Browne stresses judicial ability to address personal weaknesses
Wexford TD and barrister James Browne said while judges must be experts on the law, they also needed a good temperament and an ability to weigh up individual cases.
He said, on paper, somebody might look like a potential judge by having been involved in many significant cases. However, he or she might have been a junior counsel who sat beside a senior counsel and might never have led a case.
“He or she may have a successful career, earning lots of money in the courts, but that does not mean he or she will make a good judge,” Mr Browne added.
He said while judges must be experts on the law, they also needed a good temperament and an ability to weigh up individual cases.
He was speaking during the resumed Dáil debate on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, providing for a lay majority in the selection of judges. Fianna Fáil is opposing the legislation.
Mr Browne said the measure would do the opposite to its stated aim of removing politics from judicial appointments.
He said the lay people involved would have no expertise or knowledge relating to the requirements to make a good judge.
“There is no doubt they will be nominated from some of the powerful vested interests in the State,” he added. “The process will be even more politicised.”
Independent TD Thomas Pringle said the cost of access to the justice system was still an outstanding issue about which the Government did not care about.
“If the Government was serious about reform, it would have started with more genuine measures, for example, increasing access to free legal aid for people who cannot afford to access the justice system,” he added.
People before Profit TD Bríd Smith said the language used by those opposed to the Bill suggested there was a revolutionary assault on the judicial system and that the State’s entire legal apparatus was under threat.
“Dire consequences will ensue if, God forbid, lay people were to meddle in the sanctity of the work of the judicial system,” she added.
“All sorts of horrors would unfold if the barbarians were to breach the walls of the King’s Inns.”