The judiciary and a constitutional crisis
Sir, – It appears from reports that Mr Justice Seamus Woulfe’s colleagues are now of the opinion that his lack of judgment is a serious concern and that the Chief Justice accordingly considers that he should resign.
Should the next step in this saga be possible impeachment, I think that politicians should be very careful. Imagine lack of judgment becoming common grounds for impeachment? Where would that leave politicians! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – What exactly was the point of the detailed non-statutory review by Ms Justice Denham, which concluded that Mr Justice Woulfe’s actions did not merit his resignation from his judicial office, if the Chief Justice ignores the findings of that review, and seeks (at least from his personal perspective) Mr Justice Woulfe’s resignation?
Mr Justice Woulfe, who was a diligent and capable attorney general, has made a mistake, he has apologised for it, and the judicial branch should move on.
We must all remember that Mr Justice Woulfe deserves to be treated fairly in any employment procedures that he is subjected to, just like every other citizen in the State. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Independence must exist between the judicial system and the legislative and executive branches of the State but it must also exist within the judicial system itself. Judges need to have a strong degree of independence from one another.
The prospect of judges engaging in an ad hoc process to force out one of their number sets a worrying precedent. The Chief Justice created a process involving the former chief justice, who came to a conclusion based on her review of the situation.
The Chief Justice has now set that conclusion aside and is moving forward to a different outcome.
Such a precedent, with such a low bar, would establish a process by which judges could seek to force out or purge colleagues for any number of reasons: consistently dissenting judgments, having what might be deemed in the future to be an unconventional lifestyle, or being of a different philosophical viewpoint.
Remarkably, the Chief Justice has put in writing a view that he then claims he is not in a position to express professionally.
If any employee were to receive a letter from a more senior person, while writing to them in an exchange about a workplace problem, expressing a personal view that they should resign, then it would likely be presented as evidence in a case for constructive dismissal. – Yours, etc,
DANIEL K SULLIVAN,
Sir, – I rush to the defence of the Mr Justice Frank Clarke’s prose.
One of his sentences has been attacked by a letter writer (November 12th), who sees a contradiction in what the Chief Justice wrote to Mr Justice Woulfe: “It is not part of my role to ask, let alone tell, you to resign . . . however, I believe . . . you should resign”.
If the Chief Justice asks Mr Justice Woulfe to resign, he is issuing an official request (which he cannot do); if he tells Mr Justice Woulfe to resign, he is issuing an order (which he also cannot do); and if he then says that Mr Justice Woulfe should resign, he is giving advice (something he can do).
There is no logical contradiction in the Chief Justice’s sentence. – Yours, etc,
Lecturer in Communication, Cork Institute