Delay in appointing judges to Court of Appeal ‘regrettable’ – Chief Justice

Delays ‘unfair to litigants’ who had reasonable expectation of an early hearing

Speaking at the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin, Chief Justice Frank Clarke said delays in appointing court of Appeal judges could lead to a shortage of judges at the High Court. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

Speaking at the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin, Chief Justice Frank Clarke said delays in appointing court of Appeal judges could lead to a shortage of judges at the High Court. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

 

Delays in the appointment of new judges to the Court of Appeal will disappoint litigants who had expected earlier court dates in the new legal term, Chief Justice Frank Clarke has said.

In July, the Dáil passed legislation to increase the number of judges on the Court of Appeal from 10 to 16 amid waiting times for cases of between 18 months and two years.

However, the additional judges have not yet been appointed. And cases brought forward in anticipation of the extra judges have had to be postponed, Mr Clarke said.

The delay in appointing additional judges was “regrettable”, he said, during a speech to mark the new legal year in the Criminal Courts of Justice.

“As soon as that legislation was passed, the President of the Court of Appeal acted immediately to make arrangements to bring forward the likely hearing date of those cases which, under the existing regime, could not be accommodated until well into 2021,” Mr Clarke said.

The appointment of judges has been a point of tension with the Government, with Minister for Transport and Tourism Shane Ross holding up appointments over opposition to the current system for selecting judges.

Mr Clarke said appeal cases would have to be removed from court listings from Tuesday, as “it is just not possible to empanel a second bench to deal with civil cases as had been envisaged”.

Court dates

Many of the cases which had been brought forward, in anticipation of additional judges on the Court, had been given court dates between October and next January – which would now need to be pushed back, he said.

“That process of removing cases from the list will have to continue for as long as the appointments are not made,” Mr Clarke told members of the legal profession on Thursday.

“This is, quite frankly, most unfair to litigants who were given the reasonable expectation of an early hearing,” he said.

The hold up of appointments to the Court of Appeal, would likely also cause problems for the High Court, where a “significant number” of judges selected to sit on the appeals court would come from, Mr Clarke said.

This would likely lead to a shortage of numbers on the High Court, or judges appointed to the Court of Appeal having to stay in situ, until their replacement was appointed, he said.

“Either eventuality is going to lead to legitimate disappointment on the part of litigants who expected their cases to be heard,” he said.