Judges – pay, pensions and status

 

Sir, – Without wishing to comment on the quality of Irish judges, it might be useful, in the interests of balance, to note the following in relation to “Lawyers say salary cuts devalue position of judges” (April 1st).

Recent Council of Europe and European Commission reports have again shown that Irish judges are among the best paid in Europe. The Haddington Road Agreement applies to the salaries for pre-2012 judges in that they will return eventually to their pre-2012 level. Accordingly, the “two-tier system” for judges will be gradually eliminated. The costs associated with judicial pensions in gross term and as a percentage of pensionable remuneration stands at 70 per cent. Net of increased contributions and pension-related deduction (PRD), the costs still remain at over 60 per cent. These costs are among the highest in the public sector because of the short service (20 years) required for full pension rights.

Finally, judges can avail of the “sweetener deal” whereby they can retire early and avail of a pension calculation untouched by the pay cuts. – Yours, etc,

MICHELE CARROLL,

Terenure,

Dublin 12.

Sir, – Apparently lawyers are concerned that salary cuts devalue the position of judges and agree with Michael McDowell that the previous perception of prestige or value attached to the post is significantly diminished.

Actually the biggest single cause of the loss of respect for the judiciary is their practice of granting absurd levels of awards in the civil courts for trivial injuries and in cases where it is not obvious that anyone other than the claimant was responsible for those injuries. Of course, if such cases were thrown out, or greatly reduced compensation were paid, there would be a huge fall in the number of cases brought and a corresponding reduction in income for the legal profession. – Yours, etc,

DONAL McGRATH,

Greystones,

Co Wicklow.

Sir , – Your article noted that newly appointed judges often take significant pay cuts when they abandon their practices and that this is a recruiting deterrent. The judges salaries noted in the article ranged from €110,000 to €227,000, depending on the court and the appointment date.

There is another way of looking at it, however. If “big hitters”, to quote the article, did not earn so much in the first place then the pay differential wouldn’t be so high and hence the salaries for judges would be relatively more attractive to potential candidates. Given the rates noted above, and considering the average salary in this State is estimated at around €30,000, I think addressing the high legal fees first might be the best approach. – Yours, etc,

FRANK CLOHOSEY,

Douglas,

Cork.

Sir, – Michael McDowell asks whether poor pay and conditions are discouraging the best from applying to become judges. I don’t know if he is right in this. However, I would suggest that the best solicitors or barristers do not necessarily make the best judges. The best players don’t necessarily make the best referees or managers. The best doctors do not necessarily make the best hospital managers.

It always seemed strange to me that there is no formal judicial training, whether full-time or part-time. Such a system would allow those interested in following a judicial career to develop the skills required. Appointments to the judiciary could then be made on a combination of judicial training and legal expertise.

For the Supreme Court it would probably be necessary to qualify on the basis of legal expertise primarily.

Or maybe the legal profession is interested solely in money and has no interest in judicial training? I don’t know. – Yours, etc,

VINCENT MURPHY,

Cork.

A chara, – The most telling sentence in the article about our poor, unfortunate, underpaid judges was the quote from an anonymous solicitor: “At least the new ones can use the internet.” Nothing like a bit of progress! – Is mise,

LOMAN Ó LOINGSIGH,

Dublin 24.