Appointment to Judicial Office

Article 35.1 of the Constitution provides that “[t]he judges of the Supreme Court, the High Court and all other Courts established in pursuance of Article 34 hereof shall be appointed by President.” While the formal appointment of judges is made by the President through the presentation of warrants of appointment to those appointed, this power is, pursuant to Article 13.9, exercised “only on the advice of the Government.”

Qualifications and Experience

The minimum qualifications for the appointment of judges vary according to the Court to which a person is to be appointed.

High Court and Supreme Court

Section 5 of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961, as amended by section 4 of the Courts and Court Officers Act 2002, provides that:

“ a person shall be qualified for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court if the person is for the time being a practising barrister or practising solicitor of not less than 12 years standing who has practised as a barrister or a solicitor for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately before such appointment.”

In addition, any person who was at any time during the period of two years immediately before the appointment concerned

  • a judge of the Court of Justice of the European Communities;
  • a judge of the Court of First Instance attached to that Court;
  • an Advocate-General of the Court of Justice of the European Communities;
  • a judge of the European Court of Human Rights established under the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms done at Rome on the 4th day of November, 1950;
  • a judge of the International Court of Justice established under the Charter of the United Nations;
  • the judge of the International Criminal Court established under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court done at Rome on the 17th day of July, 1998, upon the entry into force of that Statute;
  • a judge of an international tribunal within the meaning of section 2 of the International War Crimes Tribunal's Act, 1998

AND

  • Was a practising barrister or practising solicitor before appointment as any of the above officers is qualified for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court.

A judge of the Circuit Court who has served for at least two years is also qualified for appointment to the Supreme Court or High Court.

District Court and Circuit Court

Section 29 (2) of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961 provides that a person who is for the time being a practising barrister or solicitor of not less than 10 years standing is qualified for appointment as a judge of the District Court. Section 17 (2), as amended by section 30 of the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995, applies the same requirement to prospective Circuit Court judges and also provides that a judge of the District Court is qualified for appointment as a judge of the Circuit Court.

The Judicial Appointments Advisory Board

Section 13 of the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995 provides for the appointment of a Judicial Appointments Advisory Board for the purposes of “ identifying persons and informing the Government of the suitability of those persons for appointment to judicial office.” The Board consists of the following 10 persons:

  • The Chief Justice;
  • the Presidents of the High Court, Circuit Court and District Court;
  • the Attorney General;
  • a practising barrister;
  • a practising solicitor;
  • three persons identified as suitable by the Minister for Justice.

The Board advertises for applications for judicial appointments. Anyone recommended by the Board to the Government for judicial appointment must not only hold the formal qualifications set out in the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961 but must also display an appropriate “degree of competence and probity” and be “suitable on the grounds of character and temperament”. The Board forwards and a list of seven suitable candidates to the Government, without any ranking as to suitability, and the Government is not obliged to appoint from this list.

Section 16 (8) of the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995 provides that notice of appointments under the procedure envisaged by the Act must be published in the Iris Oifigiúil, the Official Gazette, and the notice must include a statement, if that is the case, that the name of the person was recommended by the Board to the Minister. However, the names of applicants to the Board who are not selected by the Government for judicial appointment will not be disclosed: section 20 of the Act of 1995 provides that the proceedings of the Board and all communications to it are confidential and shall not be disclosed except for the purposes of the Act.