Minister for Justice Helen McEntee TD has welcomed the passage of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2022 through its final stages in Seanad Éireann.
The Bill, when enacted, will lead to the biggest reform in how judges are appointed in a quarter of a century through the establishment of a new Judicial Appointments Commission.
The Commission will replace the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) and will recommend persons for appointment as judges by the President on the advice of the Government under the Constitution.
It will also recommend persons for nomination by the Government to international courts outside the State.
Minister McEntee said:
“This represents an important step forward in the reform of the judicial appointments process, as committed to in my Justice Plan 2023.
“The recognised excellence of our judges and judiciary will be further enhanced by the provisions of this Bill, which introduces a new recommendation and appointments process and ensures that judicial selection is conducted in a modern, open and transparent way.
“The new legislation will ensure that anyone who wishes to be considered for appointment to judicial office, including serving judges, will apply to the Commission and undergo the same application and interview processes.
“Furthermore, the establishment of a new, independent Judicial Appointments Commission will ensure that the selection of nominees for judicial office will be through fair and open competition from the widest range of possible candidates.
“This Bill follows a substantial process of consultations, in particular with the Attorney General, the European Commission and the Chief Justice.
“It also takes into account key aspects of a comprehensive pre-legislative scrutiny report prepared by an Oireachtas Committee.”
The Chief Justice will chair the Commission, which will comprise an equal number of lay members and judge members.
In addition, the Bill provides for the following:
- Three persons will be recommended for a vacancy and an additional two recommendations for a second and additional vacancy (e.g. seven recommendations for three vacancies).
- Any person who is to be recommended to the Minister should have been interviewed, and therefore the Minister has provided accordingly.
- The Bill contains a requirement for the Commission to publish a Diversity statement relating to the objective that membership of the judiciary should reflect the diversity of the population as a whole.
- A provision has also been inserted in the Bill that requirements for judicial appointment will reflect the need for candidates to undergo judicial training or continuous professional development.
Minister McEntee added:
The enactment of this legislation will enable the continued appointment of excellent judges, which are a cornerstone of a strong, independent judiciary
This independence is important in ensuring public confidence in the courts to uphold the law.
"I look forward to working with all members of the Houses of the Oireachtas to bring this legislation to enactment as soon as possible."
Notes for editors
- The Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2022 was published on 8 April 2022
- Membership of the Judicial Appointments Commission will comprise:
- The Chief Justice, who will chair the Commission
- The President of the Court of Appeal, who can be replaced by another Court President
- Two judges nominated by the Judicial Council
- Four lay members appointed by the Minister for Justice from among the persons recommended by the Public Appointments Service, and;
- The Attorney General, who will not have a vote
- Under the Bill, the Government may only appoint a recommended person. In consultation with the Attorney General, it has been advised that in the context of recent Court of Justice Decisions, there is a need for the appointments process in Ireland to have regard to EU law protecting the integrity of the process to ensure judicial independence.
- The Bill provides that the names of all those persons who apply for a judicial vacancy be forwarded to the Minister along with recommended names. This is for information purposes.
- Provisions are included in the Bill to include within the Commission remit nominations for appointment or election to the General Court, the Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court. The Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs are satisfied that the new Commission can deal with these recommendations.
- The Minister will appoint the Director and an Interim Director may be appointed.
- The Bill provides that financial provision is made for the Commission, as determined by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform, and for the Judicial Council by the Courts Service.