Court Ushers, Criers and Judicial Assistants
Court Ushers and Criers provide personal assistance in various forms to the judges to whom they are assigned. Such assistance was, and in many cases continues to be, provided to each Supreme Court and High Court Judge by his or her Court Usher (sometimes called a Tipstaff), and to Circuit Court Judges by his or her Court Crier. The work of Ushers and Criers, respectively, is broadly similar but differs in emphasis according to the work of the judge concerned.
In brief summary, the function of an usher or crier is:
- Maintaining proper order in the courtroom and managing the judge’s chambers;
- collecting and delivery of correspondence and papers for the judge, photocopying, collecting and disposing of court files;
- to act as a buffer between lawyers, litigants and judge;
- to protect the independence of the judge from any appearance of partiality;
- to marshal witnesses, lawyers and litigants to the correct court;
- to provide a degree of personal security for the judge;
- to facilitate settlement talks e.g. by communicating requests for more time to the judge;
- to assist in keeping a diary for the judge of court appointments;
- to drive the judge when needed.
The phasing out of Ushers and Criers and their replacement by Judicial Assistants
Following the report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes (also known as An Bord Snip Nua), and the subsequent enactment of the Financial Measures in the Public Interest (Amendment) Act 2011, new appointees as Judges of the Supreme Court, High Court and Circuit Court will no longer be entitled to the services of an individual Usher or Crier, but rather will be provided with the services of a Judicial Assistant drawn from a panel of such persons on an “as required” basis.
Unlike existing Ushers and Criers who are not, in general, third level graduates, the new Judicial Assistants require a law degree at a minimum of level 8 on the National Framework of Qualifications or an appropriate professional qualification, as well as an extensive knowledge of Irish Law and the Irish legal system. The new Judicial Assistants are expected to provide personal assistance to any judge to whom they are assigned from time to time of a similar nature to that presently provided by Ushers and Criers, but in addition they must be able to undertake judicial research, draft legal memos and proof-read judgments if required by the judge.
The first Judicial Assistant posts were advertised in July 2012 on www.publicjobs.ie and the first recruits have recently taken up their posts.