Judicial appointments and the law
Sir, – If a quarter of Irish judges feel that changes to their remuneration over the last few years have had an effect on their ability to carry out their duties, as reported in the survey by the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary, they should reconsider their calling (“Many Irish judges do not feel respected by politicians, survey finds”, Opinion & Analysis, March 28th).
Judges are, after all, citizens of this State first and members of the legal profession second. No profession or trade grouping should be or claim to be above criticism. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Allegations of hypocrisy against the judiciary reveal a misunderstanding of the nature of the separation of powers.
The separation of powers is a confusing and evasive concept, particularly when one considers that two of the branches of government, the executive and the legislature, often blur together. That ministers must be drawn from the the Houses of the Oireachtas is evidence of this.
The separation of powers is more nuanced an idea than a mere prohibition on two arms of government commenting publicly on one another. There is nothing that prevents judges from commenting publicly on proposed legislation or the absence thereof. Doing so often makes part of their work, as they often make a point of refraining from developing the law in particular areas, stressing that legislative intervention is more desirable, or indeed necessary.
The legislative process is intended to be an open one where interested citizens and stakeholders participate in debate over what is best for society. To pass a Bill on judicial appointments without at least considering the opinion of the judiciary would be unwise.
The work of the judiciary is very different, and is not intended to be the subject of wide-ranging debate from all corners of society. It instead follows a triadic pattern, with two parties arguing and a judge in the middle who assesses those arguments. If judges are seeking to avoid public denunciations from politicians, their decision-making may stray from the case at hand.
The separation of powers does not work identically both ways and a crude caricature of it as such is not a useful way of assessing the present controversy. – Yours, etc,
Castleknock, Dublin 15.
Sir, – The judiciary seem horrified at the prospect of lay people making decisions in the legal world.
Isn’t that what juries do? – Yours, etc,