The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, TD, has announced that the Government has approved his proposals for a new legal provision to facilitate the appointment of an additional two judges in order to tackle the lengthy waiting times in the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeal.
The average delay for new non-priority cases before the Supreme Court is now approximately four years. Earlier this year, the Chief Justice announced the Court could not accept any new priority cases, given that there were already over 70 cases on the priority list awaiting hearing. The Minister and the Attorney General met with the Chief Justice to discuss the difficulties and, following this meeting, the Minister brought a proposal to his Government colleagues to allow for the appointment of two new judges. The necessary legislative amendment will be brought forward in the Courts Bill 2013 which is currently awaiting Committee Stage and will be enacted in the coming weeks.
The Minister announced last week that a Referendum on a Constitutional Amendment for a Court of Appeal will be held in the Autumn.
Welcoming the Government Decision, Minister Shatter said "It is vital that litigants can vindicate their right of access to justice. The waiting periods in the Supreme Court list are negating the efficient throughput achieved in the High Court, particularly in the Commercial Court list. Last week Government agreed that the proposed Constitutional Amendment to create a new Court of Appeal should be put to the People in the autumn and has now further approved my proposal to increase the number of judges of the Supreme Court which will facilitate the introduction by the Chief Justice of increased sittings in both the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeal. This measure will underpin the ongoing process of court reform which is essential to maintaining our competitiveness and upholding citizens’ rights under both the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights."
7 May 2013
Note for Editors:
New Supreme Court Judges
The situation in the Supreme Court was recently highlighted on 2nd March 2013 by the Chief Justice in a speech to the Seminar on Constitutional Reform organised by the Department of Justice. The Minister had previously discussed the issue with the Chief Justice and subsequently secured the agreement of the Minister for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to appoint two additional judges to the Supreme Court bringing the total number of ordinary judges to 9 (plus the Chief Justice). The Cabinet today agreed to the Minister for Justice’s proposal. These appointments will facilitate the Chief Justice arranging for additional court sittings later in the year to address the appeal backlog that has developed, including the scheduling of several sittings of the Court of Criminal Appeal and for the Supreme Court to sit routinely on a divisional basis. The Chief Justice has indicated that the appointments, together with efficiency measures already introduced, will help reduce delays and the financial, economic and reputational risks associated with delay.
The Courts (Establishment and Constitution) Act 1961, as amended by the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995 provides for a maximum of 7 ordinary judges of the Supreme Court. The Minister will now include a new provision in the Courts Bill 2013 by way of Committee Stage amendment. (The salary of a Supreme Court judge (appointed from 1 January 2012) is currently €197,272 (€178,608 net of pension related deduction). It is expected that the Courts Bill 2013 will complete its passage through both Houses of the Oireachtas before the summer vacation.