The Interim Judicial Council
The interim Judicial Council was established on the 18th November, 2011, on the occasion of the national conference of the judiciary. Its remit is to deal with standards, education, ethical and representative issues, pending the enactment of legislation providing for a Judicial Council. The Interim Judicial Council is made up of all members of the judiciary.
Proposal to Establish a Judicial Council on a Statutory Basis.
A Committee on Judicial Conduct and Ethics reported in December 2000, advising that a Judicial Council be established. A Judicial Council Bill was published by then Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Dermot Ahearn, on the 23rd August, 2010.
Following the decision of the Judiciary to establish an Interim Judicial Council at the National Conference of the Judiciary, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter, TD, said “I very much welcome this initiative by the judiciary and look forward to working with representatives of the Interim Judicial Council next year as steps are taken by Government towards establishing a formal body through the forthcoming Judicial Council Bill”. The Minister went on to indicate that a new Judicial Council Bill is being drafted and is due for publication during 2012.
A previous draft Judicial Council Bill was published in August 2010. That draft envisioned that the functions of a Judicial Council will encompass the maintenance and promotion of:
(a) Excellence in the exercise by Judges of their judicial functions,
(b) High standards of conduct among judges,
(c) The availability of, and efficient and effective use of judicial resources,
(d) Continuing education among judges and,
(e) Respect for the independence of the judiciary.
The 2010 draft Judicial Council Bill provides for its establishment, membership, functions, and procedures. It provides for a Board of the Judicial Council and sets out the functions of such a Board, its meetings and procedures; a number of committees are to be established including a Judicial Studies Committee and a Judicial Support Committee. Of particular importance is the proposal to establish a Judicial Conduct Committee.
Under the 2010 draft Bill, the functions of the Judicial Conduct Committee include the consideration and investigation of complaints regarding the conduct of individual judges and the taking of such action as may be considered necessary for the purpose of safeguarding the administration of justice. The committee would also prepare and submit to the Board of the Judicial Council draft guidelines concerning judicial conduct and ethics with a view of their adoption by the Council and may draft amendments to any such guidelines. It is further proposed that the Judicial Conduct Committee may provide advice and recommendations to the judiciary concerning judicial conduct and ethics.
The Interim Judicial Council has met on a number of occasions since its establishment. A sub-committee was established by the Interim Judicial Council to consider the general scheme of a Judicial Council Bill as published by the former Minister, Mr. Ahern. A revised version of the general scheme of the Bill has been submitted to the present Minister for Justice and Equality.
Another sub-committee of the Interim Judicial Council has been established with the view to the preparation of draft guidelines concerning judicial conduct and ethics. The work of that sub-committee is ongoing.
Last but not least, the draft Bill proposes that no function conferred or power vested in the Council or the Judicial Conduct Committee shall be exercised so as to interfere with the independence of a judge in the exercise of his or her judicial functions