The role of the judge

AuthorTom Finlay
PositionFormer Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
2005] The Role of the Judge 1
It is for me a very great pleasure indeed to be here and that
is so notwithstanding the fact that I am conscious that, in accepting
the kind invitation of Esmonde Smyth to speak hereabout the role
of the judge, I am breaking what I like to describe as a long held
principle of mine, and what most other people would describe as an
obsession of “bee in my bonnet;” namely that free advice is by far
the most over produced commodity in Ireland at present and should
have been put into intervention long before beef or butter.
However,the combination of the blandishments of Esmonde
Smyth and the pleasure which I anticipated of meeting so many
colleagues previously known to me in either of the legal profession
or in the judiciaryovercame these so-called principles.
What is the role of the judge? I think this question leads to
aseries of what could accurately be described as blinding glimpses
of the obvious and maybe it is as well, in order to discipline our
discussion, that we should state them.
There appears to me to be three basic and fundamental
functions of a judge and they areas follows:
1. Todo justice between the parties in deciding the issues
brought beforethe court, be they civil or criminal.
2. To try and ensure that not only is justice done between
the parties, but that also to reasonable and unbiased
observers it appears to be done.
3. In deciding what is the just order to be made, to have
regard to both the immediate and long term
consequences of it on the parties. In the context of
criminal cases, I include as a party the public. To have
regardin the limited instances in which it arises to any
*Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

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