Extra Judicial Professional Activities

Judges in Ireland are increasingly engaged in a number of activities which are additional to the everyday tasks of hearing cases, researching and giving judgments. Some of these extra judicial tasks are closely allied to the administration of justice while others are less so. As Article 35.2 of the Constitution prohibits judges from holding offices or positions of emolument these extra-judicial tasks are carried out by judges without payment or reward of any kind.

As Irish society and public administration has become more sophisticated, integrated and complex, judges have been called upon increasingly in recent years to assist in the resolution of matters, many of which are historical in nature, but which are nonetheless of significant public concern. In addition, increased regulation of public authorities and institutions has resulted in the establishment of statutory overseers where independence from outside pressures in the execution of such office is an essential ingredient. Judges, by virtue of their independence from the executive and legislative arms of government, approach these outside tasks, whether this entails hearing evidence or submissions, with a detachment which gives a reasonable degree of reassurance to the public that the matter in hand will be dealt with competently and comprehensively.

A

The extra judicial functions most closely related to the judiciary’s role as an arm of government and/or to the administration of justice in Ireland include, amongst others, the following:

Membership of the Council of State

Judicial members comprise the Chief Justice, former Chief Justices and the President of the High Court;

Membership of the Presidential Commission when convened from time to time.

The judicial member is the Chief Justice or, if she is unavailable, the President of the High Court.

Membership of Rules of Court Committees

The Superior Courts Rules Committee; the Circuit Court Rules Committee and the District Court Rules Committee

Membership of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board

Judicial members include the Chief Justice and the Presidents of the High Court, Circuit Court and District Court, respectively.

Membership of the Courts Service Board

Judicial members include the Chief Justice and the Presidents of the High Court, Circuit Court and District Court, respectively, and one ordinary judge elected each by the Supreme Court, High Court, Circuit Court and District Court, respectively.

Committee for Judicial Studies (formerly the Judicial Studies Institute)

The majority of committee members are judges

The Judicial Studies Journal Editorial Board

There are a number of judges on the editorial board.

Membership including the Chair of the Law Reform Commission

The commission is usually chaired either by a serving judge or a retired judge.

Membership of the Interim Judicial Council

Each judge is a member of the IJC in his/her own right. It is governed by the Board of the IJC which is presently comprised entirely of judges.

Membership of the Bench of the Honourable Society of Kings Inns

Each judge of the Supreme Court and the High Court is ex officio a bencher of the Honourable Society of Kings Inns.

Membership of the Council of Kings Inns

B

Occasionally in the political sphere, an impartial outsider is called upon to give an interpretation on a constitutional proposal, to redraw the boundaries of Dáil constituencies following the taking of a census or to ensure that proper standards are maintained in public life. It is customary to appoint a senior judge to perform these finely balanced functions.

Constituency Boundary Commission

Currently chaired by a High Court Judge

Standards in Public Office Commission

Currently chaired by a retired High Court Judge

Referendum Commissions

Chaired by a former member of the High Court or the Supreme Court or by a serving member of the High Court. The Chairperson is appointed by the Chief Justice at the request of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.


C

Recent Tribunals of Inquiry and Commissions of Inquiry into Matters of Public Concern which were conducted either individually or chaired by a member, or retired member, of the Irish Judiciary include:

Tribunal of Inquiry into Whiddy Island Disaster - Costello J.

Tribunal of Inquiry into Stardust Disaster - Keane J.

The Kerry Babies Tribunal – Lynch J.

Tribunal of Inquiry into the Blood Transfusion Service Board - Finlay C.J. (retd.)

Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Industry - Hamilton J.

Tribunal of Inquiry into Payments to Politicians - McCracken J.

Tribunal of Inquiry into Payments to Politicians and related matters (follow up) - Moriarty J.

Tribunal of Inquiry into certain planning matters and payments - Flood J, then Judge Mahon with Judge Keys and Judge Faherty.

Inquiry into Child Abuse in the Diocese of Ferns - Murphy J (S.Ct, retd) with Dr Helen Buckley and Dr Laraine Joyce

Tribunal of Inquiry into Infection with HIV and Hepatitis C of persons with Haemophilia and related matters - Judge Lindsay

Tribunal of Inquiry into the Siege and Shooting of John Carty in Abbeylara - Barr J

Tribunal of Inquiry into Complaints concerning some Gardaí of the Donegal Division - Morris J

Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse - Laffoy J, Ryan J

Commission of Investigation into Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin - Judge Murphy

Commission of Investigation into Catholic Archdiocese of Cloyne - Judge Murphy

Inquiry into Peripartum Hysterectomy at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogeda - Judge Harding Clark (now Harding Clark J.)

Tribunal of Inquiry into the fatal shootings of an RUC Chief Supt and Supt on the 20th March, 1989. - Judge Smithwick (ongoing)

Luas Rail Inquiry - Judge O’ Leary (as he then was) (Inspector)

Ansbacher Accounts Inquiry - Costello J, O’Leary J (Inspectors)


D

Judicial oversight of certain criminal justice agencies and functions

Monitoring of State Surveillance and Phonetapping activity

Under s. 12 of the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) 2009 a Judge of the High Court may be designated to undertake (while serving as such a judge) the duties specified in that section..

Prisons Inspectorate

To ensure that certain standards are established and maintained in the prisons and places of detention in the State and to report annually to the Minister for Justice. There have been two Inspectors of Prisons since the Inspectorate was established in 2007. Both the present incumbent and his predecessor are retired members of the judiciary.

Garda Ombudsman Complaints Commission

Under s. 65(5) of the Garda Siochána Act, 2005 a person who holds judicial office in a superior court may, without relinquishing that office, be appointed, with his or her consent, as the chairperson of the Garda Ombudsman Complaints Commission. The first such chairperson was late Mr Justice Kevin Haugh. At the present time the chairperson is not a person holding judicial office.

Membership of a Garda Disciplinary Board of Inquiry / Appeals Board

Under the Garda Siochána (Disciplinary) Regulations S.I. 214/2007 a Board of Inquiry established by the Commissioner under regulation 25, and also an Appeal Board established by the Commissioner under regulation 34, must be chaired by a person drawn from a panel nominated by the Minister for Justice. In each case the regulations further provide that “Each person on the panel shall be a judge of the District Court or a practising barrister, or practising solicitor, of not less than 10 years' standing.”

E

The judicial role requires a withdrawal from public discourse on the part of the judge, the maintenance of a certain distance and reserve. However, the opportunity to impart valuable insights and advice of a non-controversial nature, particularly in so far as they relate to the administration of justice in Ireland, is permitted to judges who engage in writing books on substantive and procedural law, or articles for academic or professional periodicals/journals, or learned papers to be delivered at conferences such as those organized by professional legal bodies, universities, government agencies such as the Probation Service, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Legal Aid Board, as well as certain non governmental agencies and advocacy groups.

Further, in more recent years some universities have appointed judges and former judges to the position of Adjunct Professor in their law faculties and departments.

F

Judges or former judges may also be called upon to chair certain other bodies providing independent assistance and mediation in the public arena. Recent examples include:

  • The Residential Institutions Redress Board
  • The Peatlands Forum

G

Irish judges also participate in certain international organizations and fora. Examples include:

  • The European Network of Councils of the Judiciary
  • The European Judicial Training Network
  • The Consultative Council of European Judges
  • The International Association of Judges
  • The European Association of Judges
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