‘Not appropriate’ for Attorney General to sit at both Judicial Appointments and Cabinet table – Government warned
It is “inappropriate” for the Attorney General to be a non-voting member of the new Judicial Appointment Commission and also sit in the cabinet on vacancies, the government was warned today.
The Bar reminded a Dáil committee of its “longstanding view that it is inappropriate for the Attorney General to have a dual role in this – both on the Commission and at the Cabinet table.”
In another case, there was controversy last year when the office of then Attorney General Seamus Woulfe sought advice from JAAB, the advisory council on judicial appointments, for a position on the Supreme Court.
Mr Woulfe himself was then appointed to the position on the basis of a government recommendation to the President. The JAAB is now to be replaced by the new commission.
James Cahill, President of the Law Society, advised the Justice Committee that it is vital that a representative from each profession be appointed to the committee.
An earlier draft reform would have included “a practicing lawyer appointed by the President initially by the Law Society of Ireland” as a member of the commission. However, this provision has not been retained in the new proposals.
In the meantime, the Irish Bar Council says the establishment of the Judicial Officer Appointment Commission would be “costly and unnecessary” if the current JAAB could be reorganized to perform the same functions.
“Alternatively, administrative support functions could be shared with the Judicial Council. The Council believes that scarce resources are better used to support and support the judiciary in its functions, ”said Maura McNally SC, Chair of the Bar Association.
She welcomes the reduction in the number of members of the Commission from 17 to 9 and agrees that reducing the number promotes consensus and supports decision making.
However, it was “worrying” that neither the Chairman of the Council of the Irish Bar Association nor the President of the Law Society were accepted as members of the Commission.
This will result in the absence of a member of the new commission to represent any of the professions from which candidates can be selected.
This suggests that the inclusion of such representatives would mean that they “would be able to give a more complete picture of the characteristics of the applicants”.
Ms. McNally said in her opening address, “Appointment as a judge is a unique profession and the skills required may not always be obvious on paper or during an interview.”
The bill also provides that “no alternative to the attorney general is provided in the bill when the attorney general is indeed the applicant for a judicial position,” added McNally.
“The Bar of Ireland believes that an alternate should sit when the Attorney General has reused himself as an applicant for such a judicial office.
“In such situations, the expertise, advice, knowledge and skills of the Chairman of the Council of the Irish Bar would be of particular use to the Commission.”
It also states that the maximum number of people recommended to a Justice Minister to appear before the cabinet should be three, as opposed to the five set out in the bill.
“There’s no reason to recommend five people for an available role, especially if the recommended candidates aren’t classified.”
The Irish Bar recommends grading applicants based on their merit.
“This is especially important if the proposed legislation doesn’t reduce the long list from five,” Ms. McNally said.