The attorney general should not have the right to appoint a senior judge for 12 months
An outgoing Attorney General should not be eligible for appointment as a Supreme Court or the Appeals court for at least 12 months after leaving office, the Oireachtas Judicial Committee was said.
Legal scholar Dr. Laura Cahillane, Dr. Tom Hickey and Dr. David Kenny were asked to submit proposals to the Judiciary Committee on the draft law of the Commission on Judicial Appointments of the Government.
In an 11-page submission, the trio reiterated many of the recommendations made last week by the Irish Commission on Human Rights and Equality, including that the attorney general shouldn’t sit on the proposed Judicial Appointments Commission.
However, they added that after leaving the government, the attorney general should be barred from considering an appointment as chief judge for 12 months.
Judge Séamus Woulfe was appointed to the Supreme Court last summer a month after his replacement as attorney general and was later embroiled in the “Golfgate” scandal.
In the introduction to their submission, Dr. Cahillane, Dr. Hickey and Dr. Kenny: “We applaud the new legislation and reform efforts in this area which, if successful, will create vital public confidence in the administration of justice.
“There are many positive aspects to this bill that will result in practical improvements to the current system for appointing judicial officers.
“We believe the decision to chair the commission as Chief Justice is a wise decision that will bring more support for this bill than for its predecessor. We also commend the move to set up a permanent office with a director and staff to help resolve this crucial issue. “
“However, we feel that there are also many improvements that could be made to the current bill,” they added. In particular, we believe that the legislation lacks sufficient guidance on eligibility criteria, evaluation mechanisms, etc. “
They warned that the proposed JAC “couldn’t be more effective than that [Judicial Appointments Advisory Board] became and will even become a copy of this body “when the legislation does not” contain enough instructions to guide these processes “.
They said: “Real reform in this area requires a body that is genuinely advisory in the sense that it actually evaluates the candidates and only suggests the names of the most appropriate in order to support the use of the government’s constitutional discretion to appoint control judges.
“We also believe that in order to ensure transparency and secure confidence in the new system, it would be preferable to include details in the legislation on the selection process once the names are sent to the Minister.
“This has been a source of controversy recently as there is no transparency or agreed procedure for making this determination in the current system. A clear direction in the bill on this decision-making process would provide the much needed assurance of the fairness of the system. “