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Job Opportunity: Ordinary Judge of the Supreme Court

Mr. Justice Clarke

The Irish Times reports today that the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board has advertised for applicants for the position of Supreme Court judge. Readers who feel like they might be in with a shot can find the advertisement here. The position is vacant as a result of the nomination of Supreme Court judge Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns as President of the High Court to replace Mr Justice Richard Johnson, who is retiring. Foreign readers may be disappointed to read that we do not go in for confirmation hearings in Ireland.  The appointments process, which aims for a degree of independence from party politics, is detailed here.

Among those qualified for appointment to the Supreme Court are judges of the High Court and of the Circuit Court of no fewer than two years standing, judges of various European and international courts on which Irish judges sit, and barristers or solicitors of not fewer than 12 years standing. The Irish Times reports that the leading contenders for appointment   to the Supreme Court on this occasion are High Court judges  Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill (top left) and Mr Justice Frank Clarke (bottom left). They share the distinction of having chaired the Lisbon Referendum Commissions; O’Neill for Lisbon 1 and Clarke for Lisbon 2. Both were tipped earlier this month for the position of President of the High Court, which has gone to Mr. Justice Kearns. The Irish Times then speculated that Mr. Justice Clarke might be due a reward for his effective chairmanship of the Commission. The Irish Independent’s favourites are the former Attorney General Rory Brady SC (above right) and Donal O’Donnell SC.

Biographies of the current sitting judges of the Supreme Court are available here. Two are women. Only Mr. Justice Hardiman is aged under 60. Judges may continue in office until the age of 70.  All were educated at private schools of some repute. All of the male judges are graduates of University College Dublin, and both female judges are graduates of Trinity College, Dublin. Not all of the judges of the Supreme Court took their first degree in law. All practised as barristers before joining the ranks of the judiciary, though two worked in practice outside the Bar for a time. Mr. Justice Geoghegan deserves special mention as the son of a former judge of the Supreme Court and the son-in-law of a former Chief Justice. His father-in-law, Thomas Finlay was Chief Justice of an influential Supreme Court bench which also included the present Chief Justice’s father-in-law; Brian Walsh. He further has the great distinction of being married to Mary Finlay Geoghegan, who is a judge of the High Court.

Mr. Justice Clarke is almost aged 60. He enjoyed a high profile career as a barrister and was Chairman of the Bar Council from 1993-1995. From Walkinstown, he is a UCD graduate – but not in law- and attended secondary school at Drimnagh Castle C.B.S.  As a barrister, he dealt in commercial, constitutional and family law. He has been external counsel to the Laffoy inquiry on child abuse  and has represented the Flood tribunal in its case against Mr Liam Lawlor.  He was part of the Anti-Amendment Campaign during the original abortion referendum in 1983 and strongly supported the referendum on divorce in 1986.  His biggest case this year concerned the Zoe group’s application for examinership.

His colleague on the High Court, Iarfhlaith O’Neill is a Galwayman and UCD graduate, almost aged 60. Before attending UCD he was educated at Terenure College. He was appointed to the High Court after 10 years at the senior Bar, where his practice was mostly commercial and personal injury. He has recently presided over two important parents’ rights cases this year. In O’B v. Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform he rule that the state is not breaching the constitutional rights of the children of unmarried parents by failing to establish a guardianship register. Earlier this month, in S v.The Adoption Board he held that the Board must make a genuine attempt to consult the natural father of a child placed for adoption, where he has had a close and ongoing relationship with the child, even if the mother objects – without independent corroboration- on the grounds that he is violent. In an article in 1999, the Irish Independent described him as ‘one of the anti-abortion campaign’s principal legal advisers’.

Rory Brady SC was Attorney General from 2002 to 2007. A former chair of the Bar Council, he returned to practice upon leaving office and is the chairman of the Takeover Panel. He is a little over 50 years of age and a graduate of Synge Street and University College Dublin. During his period as Attorney General, the government encountered a number of controversies, including the signing into law of the Criminal Justice Bill 2007 and the CC unlawful carnal knowledge case.

Donal O’Donnell’s background avoids the reach of Google rather more successfully than his fellow media favourites.  He is a leading constitutional law silk and a part-time commissioner with the Law Reform Commission. He represented the State in the recent McNally Mass cards constitutional case before the High Court.  Earlier this year he was counsel for the Attorney General in the R v. R frozen embryo case before the Supreme Court. He was also counsel for the State in Zappone and Gilligan v. Revenue Commrs and in the Miss D abortion/right to travel case.

Not a wise Latina in sight.

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