Task of selecting District and Circuit Court presidents begins

Minister for Justice secures ‘agreement to note that nomination process be put in place’

The process will closely follow the process used to appoint Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Mr Justice Frank Clarke in 2017. File photograph: The Irish Times

The process will closely follow the process used to appoint Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Mr Justice Frank Clarke in 2017. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

The process to appoint new presidents of the Circuit and District Courts has been initiated by the Government.

It will be modelled on proposed reforms concerning how judges are appointed as outlined in the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, which has passed the Dáil but is stalled in the Seanad.

The Bill, championed by Minister for Transport Shane Ross, has attracted controversy amid claims it has been the subject of filibustering in the Seanad.

Judge Raymond Groarke and Judge Rosemary Horgan will step down as presidents of the Circuit and District Courts respectively on July 12th. Both will continue to serve as judges following the conclusion of their non-renewable seven-year terms as presidents.

The appointments of their successors will closely follow the process used to appoint Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Mr Justice Frank Clarke in 2017 and George Birmingham as the president of the Court of Appeal in April 2018.

Minster for Justice Charlie Flanagan “secured . . . agreement to note the nomination process to be put in place”, the Government said.

“Notwithstanding the progression of legislation to establish a new Judicial Appointments Commission, it will still be necessary to put in place a process to recommend to Government a successor to the president of the Circuit Court and the president of the District Court.”

Mr Flanagan proposed to the Cabinet that one or two non-statutory advisory committees be set up to identify “eligible and qualified persons, including from among serving judges, considering their suitability, and making recommendations to the Minister for Justice and Equality on preferred candidates”.

The committee, or committees, will comprised a senior judge, Attorney General Séamus Woulfe and a lay member.

Under the Constitution, it is the Government that nominates any judge for appointment by President Michael D Higgins. But there is no legal bar to the Government taking advice from any outside body on the nomination.

It is understood the committee will recommend several candidates and will also be able to approach people to ask them to apply.

“The advisory committee(s) will be aware of the timeline, and the importance of having a new president in place in the Circuit and District Courts to facilitate planning and scheduling with regard to court administration,” noted a Government statement.