Supreme Court transfers 250 cases to appeals court as nine judges appointed

Court’s creation represents biggest change to structure of courts system since Independence

The judges of the Supreme Court,  back row, from left: Mr Justice Peter Charleton, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, Mr Justice Liam McKechnie, Mr Justice John MacMenamin, Mr Justice Frank Clarke and Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne; and front row, from left: Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, president of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, Chief Justice Ms Justice Susan Denham, Mr Justice John Murray and Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell, at the Supreme Court yesterday as they signed and issued a direction under the Constitution to give rise to the division of work between the new Court of Appeal and a reformed Supreme Court. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

The judges of the Supreme Court, back row, from left: Mr Justice Peter Charleton, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, Mr Justice Liam McKechnie, Mr Justice John MacMenamin, Mr Justice Frank Clarke and Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne; and front row, from left: Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, president of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, Chief Justice Ms Justice Susan Denham, Mr Justice John Murray and Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell, at the Supreme Court yesterday as they signed and issued a direction under the Constitution to give rise to the division of work between the new Court of Appeal and a reformed Supreme Court. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

 

Some 258 cases from the Supreme Court’s waiting list have been transferred to the new Court of Appeal following a direction by the Chief Justice, Ms Justice Susan Denham.

A day after the new appeals court was formally established, the Chief Justice – joined in court for the formal announcement by the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, and all nine ordinary members of the Supreme Court – directed that a further 327 appeals certified as ready for hearing will remain with the Supreme Court.

The move was followed within hours by the appointment by President Michael D Higgins of nine members to the new appeals court, which will sit between the Supreme Court and the High Court. Its creation represents the biggest change to the structure of the courts system since Independence.

The Chief Justice, acting with the agreement of her colleagues on the Supreme Court, said appeals pending in the Court of Criminal Appeal which had not been fully or partly heard would also transfer to the new court.

As of Monday, the automatic right of appeal from the High Court to the Supreme Court has been replaced by a right to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Two types of cases will from now on go to the Supreme Court: an ordinary appeal of a decision of the Court of Appeal and a so-called “leapfrog” appeal that bypasses the Court of Appeal. In both categories, the Supreme Court will have the power to decide which cases it hears.

Decisions of the new court will be final 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 nine judges of the Court of Appeal, whose nominations were confirmed by the Cabinet before they were formally appointed at Áras an Uachtaráin last night, are former High Court judges Seán Ryan (the president of the new court), Peter Kelly, Mary Finlay Geoghegan, Michael Peart, George Birmingham, Mary Irvine, Garrett Sheehan and Gerard Hogan, and former Circuit Court judge Alan Mahon. A 10th judge is to be appointed in the coming weeks.

The proposal for a Court of Appeal was approved by 65 per cent of voters in a referendum last year, but the amendment was not inserted in the Constitution until Monday, the designated establishment day for the new institution.

The court is designed to ease a four-year backlog of cases at the Supreme Court and to allow that court to focus on cases of major importance.