Posts Tagged ‘judges’

Judicial Diversity: Of Gender in Particular

October 19, 2009 Leave a comment

In an earlier post I gave some details of the composition of the current Irish Supreme Court and of the backgrounds of the four men tipped to fill the seat left vacant by Mr. Justice Kearns’ move to the Presidency of the High Court.  Yesterday, a prominent senior counsel criticised the practice of indirect lobbying by senior lawyers (direct canvassing is forbidden) with ambitions to be appointed to the bench, raising the difficult question of the role of political connections in the selection of Irish  judges. The choice – if you follow what the newspapers say- is between four highly accomplished and well respected men. Within the narrow range of options, a move towards greater diversity on the Supreme Court might involve selecting a man in his fifties rather than his sixties, a constitutional lawyer rather than a private lawyer, a Protestant rather than a Catholic, or a man who went to a state Catholic school in the city rather than to a private Catholic boarding school. It might, at a – perhaps unimaginable – stretch, involve the appointment of a lawyer trained in Cork or Galway or one who made his name taking cases against the state rather than in its service.

The newspapers’ foursome of Brady, Clarke, O’Donnell and O’Neill ought, perhaps, to be taken with a pinch of salt but it does reflect, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, the selection of candidates available when we restrict Supreme Court appointments to a certain  – under current conditions inevitably – fairly homogenous section of society. It will be a long time, for instance, before we see an appreciable number of  faces in that group of any colour other than white. When will we see more women? Since the judicial appointments process has been opened up to solicitors, the number of women in the group of potential judicial appointees has increased; in particular because more women are senior solicitors than are senior barristers. In 2008, 36 women were senior counsel compared to over 200 men, yet women are set to outnumber men at the Bar by two to one come 2010. What options for placing brilliant women lawyers on the Irish Supreme Court  might present themselves if academic lawyers were eligible for appointment to the bench? Professor Fionnuala Ni Aolain’s nomination to the European Court of Human Rights offers a glimpse of the pool of talent lying untapped, as does the British encounter with Baroness Hale (on which see an interesting article by Durham’s Erika Rackley here).

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Job Opportunity: Ordinary Judge of the Supreme Court

October 19, 2009 2 comments
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.

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