Information and Computer Technologies
The Courts Service maintains its own computer network and provides database, storage, website and e-mail facilities for its staff, and also for the judiciary. It also provides an IT Helpdesk staffed by IT professionals for the assistance of its staff and the judiciary. IT training is also made available to members of the judiciary who wish to avail of it.
Every judge is provided with a laptop computer and portable printer, and if requested, a Blackberry PDA, by means of which they may access the Courts Service Network. In addition, those Judges with permanent chambers (High Court and Supreme Court judges) are also provided with a desktop computer, laser printer and fax machine.
Scanning facilities are available via the secretaries, for those judges who have ready access to secretarial facilities, and otherwise in the judge’s library.
All judges are provided with a Courts Service mobile phone.
For the purpose of judge’s meetings and seminars within the Four Courts complex there is now a conference room equipped with video projection equipment.
The legal diary is available on-line, and updated daily, on the Courts Service website. Similarly, most judgments of the Supreme Court, High Court and Court of Criminal Appeal are published on the Courts Service website and remain there to be consulted, downloaded or printed out for free by any interested person unless and until published in the law reports.
Most Courts are now equipped with video display and video link equipment. Some Courts in the Courts of Criminal Justice building are also equipped with document projection equipment. All Courts now either have, or very shortly will have, digital audio recording facilities, and judges have the facility to access and replay the recording of the proceedings heard by them in any court in their chambers.
Finally, Supreme Court and High Court judges are provided with digital dictation equipment, and on request voice recognition software for their computers, for use in the production of judgments.
Secretarial assistance is provided by the Court’s Service to all members of the Supreme Court and the High Court, and to the Presidents of the Circuit and District Courts as a matter of course. Individual secretaries are provided to the Chief Justice, each Supreme Court judge, and Presidents of the High Court, Circuit Court and District Court, respectively. High Court judges do not have individual secretaries and have to share one secretary between six judges.
No secretarial assistance is provided to judges of the Circuit Court or the District Court (apart from the President of those courts) as a matter of course. Such assistance is notionally available on an ad hoc basis and only upon request. In practice this is difficult and inconvenient to avail of, particularly outside of Dublin.
The wearing of robes by the judiciary constitutes an important part of the formality and ritual of the Courts, which are intended to emphasise the impartiality independence and impersonality of the judicial office on the one hand, and the authority of that office on the other hand.
Upon the formation of the State in 1922 the judiciary all but abandoned the wearing of their former ceremonial costumes. Prior to Independence, the Lord Chancellor, Master of the Rolls and the Lords Justice of Appeal in Ireland would have worn full ceremonial dress identical to their English equivalents, viz. long black damask robes with wide bands of gold lace and ornaments. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Chief Baron (up to the extinction of the office on the retirement of Christopher Palles in 1916) and other puisne judges of the High Court would likewise have worn scarlet robes with ermine hood and ermine-trimmed mantle. Examples of these robes can be seen in portraits of Irish judges in the King’s Inns.
Upon the passing of the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act 1922, the office of Lord Chancellor immediately became defunct. Then in 1924 the Court of Appeal was refashioned into the Supreme Court; the Lord Chief Justice became simply Chief Justice and head of the judiciary; and the Master of the Rolls was replaced with a President of the High Court. The judges of the new superior courts, including the Chief Justice and President, adopted for all occasions – ceremonial or otherwise – the ordinary working judicial dress of the type previously worn by members of the old Court of Appeal.
Today judges are still required by law to wear robes on most but not all occasions. However, wigs are no longer required to be worn. The robes currently to be worn by judges of the Supreme Court and the High Court, respectively are as specified in Order 199 of the Rules of the Superior Courts 1986 (as amended), while those of the Circuit Court are as specified in the Circuit Court Rules, 2001, and those of the District Court are as specified in the District Court Rules 1997.
The administrators of the courts provide essential support for the judiciary.
The day to day running of the courts is the responsibility of the Supreme and High Court Operations Directorate, and the Circuit and District Court Operations Directorate, respectively within the Courts Service. Below the Operations Directors in each instance the Courts are administered through court registrars, or court clerks in the case of the District Court, who are public servants within the Courts Service.
The Supreme Court is administered by the Registrar of the Supreme Court and his or her staff in the Supreme Court Office. Similarly the Court of Criminal Appeal is administered by the Registrar of the Court of Criminal Appeal and his or her staff in the Court of Criminal Appeal Office.
The numerous High Courts are administered by the Principal Registrar of the High Court and his team of registrars and other staff, all of whom are based within The Central Office of the High Court.
At Circuit Court level, each county has its own County Registrar who, inter alia, has responsibility for administering the business of the Circuit Court at one or more locations within that county. There is a Circuit Court office in each county at which the County Registrar and his/her assistants and staff are based.
The District Court outside of Dublin is divided into different Districts and each such District has its own District Court office headed by a District Court Clerk. The Dublin Metropolitan District covers the greater Dublin area and has a number of offices. Each District Court office (with the exception of the Dublin Metropolitan District Court) deals with all elements of the work of the District Court. In the Dublin area there are different District Court offices dealing with different types of District Court business. Further details can be found on the Courts Service website.
The Courts Service, in conjunction with security contractors such as G4S on certain of its properties, and with the assistance of An Garda Siochána, provides a certain degree of security protection for the judiciary. Due to the sensitive nature of this information it is not possible for the AJI to provide further details.
Other Support Services
The judiciary also receives support in terms of both incoming and outgoing mail services, court messenger services, chambers cleaning and maintenance services, car parking spaces and the provision of stationery and other practical essentials.