Judicial Appointments Process

In accordance with Articles 13.9 and 35.1 of the Constitution, judicial appointments are made by the President, acting on the advice of the Government.

 

The following are the key actions undertaken to fill a judicial vacancy:

 

Expressions of Interest

Eligible serving Judges who wish to express an interest in elevation to positions in the superior courts are not currently required to apply to the Judicial Advisory Appointments Board (JAAB).  Expressions of interest may be submitted to the Minister of Justice via the Attorney General.  While not currently governed by statutory provisions, such expressions of interest are received on an ongoing basis and retained for any current or future vacancy that might arise. 

 

Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB)

In deciding to advise the President on whom to appoint to judicial office the Government is obliged under Section 16 of the Court and Court Officers Act 1995 to consider firstly the persons recommended by JAAB.

The JAAB is an independent Board which was established under the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995 to identify persons and inform the Government of the suitability of those persons for appointment to judicial office. The Board consists of 11 members including the Chief Justice and four Court Presidents, the Attorney General, a representative of the Bar Council and of the Law Society and up to three lay members that are appointed by the Minister for Justice.

The process through which the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board recommends applicants (who meet the requirements for appointment and are not serving judges) for consideration by Government is set out in Part IV of the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995, as amended.

 

Judicial Appointments Commission Bill

In December 2020 the Minister for Justice secured Government approval for the drafting of a Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) Bill. The Bill provides for the establishment of a new 9 member commission to replace the JAAB.  Under the JAC, both serving judges and non-judges will have to apply through the Judicial Appointments Commission. The JAC will develop upgraded procedures and requirements for judicial office selection. A new Procedures Committee of the Commission will prepare and publish statements setting out selection procedures, including interviews, and judicial skills and attributes having regard to several criteria - including such matters as diversity.

 

Number of Judges in each Jurisdiction

Type of Court

Breakdown of positions

Supreme Court

(10 posts - Chief Justice and 9 ordinary judges )

Court of Appeal

(16 posts - President and 15 ordinary judges)

High Court

(38 posts - *President and 37 ordinary judges plus 2 additional posts)

Circuit Court

(38 posts - **President and 37 ordinary judges plus 2 specialist judges)

District Court

(64 posts - President plus 63 ordinary judges)

Total judicial posts currently

170

 

*In regard to the High Court: Paragraph 2(1) of the Fourth Schedule of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides that ‘If a person appointed as the chairperson of the Ombudsman Commission is the President of the High Court or an ordinary judge of the High Court, then, for so long as he or she continues to hold the judicial office held by him or her on being so appointed, the number of ordinary judges of the High Court otherwise provided for under any enactment for the time being in force may be exceeded by one.’

Section 14 of the Law Reform Commission Act, 1975, as amended by Section 3 of the Courts (No. 2) Act, 1997, provides that “(b) in case on being so appointed such person is the President of the High Court or another judge of the High Court, other than a judge who is ex-officio an additional judge of that Court, then for so long as such person continues to hold the judicial office held by such person on so being appointed the number of ordinary judges of the High Court otherwise provided for may be exceeded by one”.

 

**In regard to the Circuit Court: Part 6 of the Personal Insolvency Act 2012 provides for the appointment of up to 8 Specialist Judges of the Circuit Court, to deal with personal insolvency cases.

 

Judicial Planning Working Group

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to “Establish a working group to consider the number of and type of judges required to ensure the efficient administration of justice over the next five years”.

The Judicial Planning Working Group will be convened shortly with an independent Chair and comprising representatives of relevant stakeholders including Government Departments and those with expertise of court and judicial matters.

 

For Further Information

The Courts Service of Ireland

Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB)

Judicial Planning Working Group