Attorney General ‘should not have a role’ in judicial appointments process

The attorney general should not play a role in appointing judicial officers

Sinéad Gibney
Sinéad Gibney

The attorney general should not play a role in the appointment of judicial officers Irish Commission on Human Rights and Equality has said.

The Rights Watchdog has published its recommendations to the government and the government Oireachtas on the general scheme of Law 2020 of the Commission for the Appointment of Judicial Officials.

Although the bill states that the attorney general would not vote on the proposal Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), the Commission believes that its membership can continue to “influence decision-making”.

The Commission believes that members of the judiciary “should constitute at least half of those who sit in the JAC” and that judicial choices should be balanced and as diverse as possible.

It also believes that the bill “should provide detailed and specific legal guidance on the selection process and criteria for the selection of appointments of judges, including the provision of mandatory interviews and the exercise of legal skills for each applicant, unless there are good reasons not to do so ”.

The Commission has also called for broader eligibility criteria for legal scholars eligible for judicial appointment under the draft law. It is “unclear why legal scholars have to hold a permanent position or why they must have at least four years of professional experience as a lawyer or attorney”.

It has also made a number of recommendations to strengthen the JAC’s work to promote diversity at the bank, including by introducing a legal definition of diversity with reference to certain equality grounds and encouraging the JAC to issue statements, how they will pursue the goal of improvement diversity.

“The concept of diversity should at least encompass age, civil status, disability, marital status, gender, ethnicity, including membership in the travel community, religious beliefs, sexual orientation and socio-economic status,” it said.

Chief Inspector Sinéad Gibney said: “A diverse judiciary can better represent society and better serve court users.

“The Commission would like a new Judicial Appointments Commission to detail its inclusion measures in order to achieve greater diversity and thus establish a clear legal mandate for the ongoing work in this area.

“The independence of the judiciary is an essential element of the public’s perception of the judiciary and of trust in the judicial system. Perceptions can influence a person’s decision to take cases to court or not to take legal action. The highest human rights standards must apply to ensure the independence and impartiality of the judiciary. “

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