No new Court of Appeal judges to be appointed over objections

Chief Justice and Court of Appeal president raised need for more judges with Taoiseach

 Independent Minister Shane Ross has told the Taoiseach he will not assent to the appointment of any more judges until new legislation governing judicial appointments is passed. Photograph: Laura Hutton/Collins Photo Agency

Independent Minister Shane Ross has told the Taoiseach he will not assent to the appointment of any more judges until new legislation governing judicial appointments is passed. Photograph: Laura Hutton/Collins Photo Agency

 

Senior members of the judiciary have asked for more judges to be appointed to the Court of Appeal to ease backlogs there, but no appointments are being considered by the Government because of objections by Independent Ministers.

The Irish Times understands both Chief Justice Susan Denham and president of the Court of Appeal Seán Ryan have raised the need for more judges with the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, and have been in discussions with the Government for some time.

However, Independent Minister Shane Ross has told Mr Kenny he will not assent to the appointment of any more judges until new legislation governing judicial appointments is passed.

This week Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald told the Seanad a number of vacancies exist on the bench, and said there would “undoubtedly” be more arising.

“The requirements of the administration of justice will be the overriding priority for the Government over the period ahead as the necessary reforms are brought forward as expeditiously as practicable,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

Government sources said the position regarding judges had not changed and there were no plans for any imminent appointments, but that the situation was being kept under review. Independent sources remained adamant there will no more judges appointed until the new procedures are in place.

The proposed judicial appointments Bill sought by Mr Ross will include provision for an independent body with an independent chair and a non-legal majority to select shortlists for appointment.

Longer delay

However, the legislation has yet to see the first stage – publication of the heads of the Bill, the general intention of each section – which is not scheduled until next month. Legal and political sources say it will not be passed until well into next year at the earliest, and some sources say that opposition to the Bill within the Department of Justice and the judiciary is likely to mean a much longer delay.

The lack of a Government majority in the Dáil means it cannot be certain the legislation would be passed.

Recently the Taoiseach told the Dáil the Government needed to appoint a small number of judges to the Court of Appeal immediately. However, a few hours later, a spokesman for Mr Kenny said there were no plans to appoint any new judges.