Who Am I To Judge? - The Appointment Of Academics To The Irish Judiciary

AuthorConor Reidy
PositionB.C.L., LL.B., LL.M., Barrister-at-Law
[2019] Irish Judicial Studies Journal Vol 3
Legal academics will for the first time be applicable for appointment as judges in Ireland per the Judicial
Appointments Commission Bill 2017. This article discusses the provision and compares it to the law in England
and Wales under the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. While the proposal is to be welcomed in
principle it needlessly limits the potential pool of academic candidates by imposing onerous requirements regarding
their academic contract and adopts narrow criteria for relevant academic experience. The law in England and
Wales allows for a broader and more diverse range of academics to be appointed as judges.
Author: Conor Reidy, B.C.L., LL.B., LL.M., Barrister-at-Law. The author is an Assistant Lecturer in Law
at Dundalk Institute of Technology.
This article seeks to examine the proposal as outlined in section 35(4) of the Judicial
Appointments Commission Bill 2017, presented to the Dáil on the 30th May 2017 by the Minister
for Justice and passed by the lower house on the 31st May 2018. At the time of writing, March
2019, the Bill is currently before the Seanad. Should the relevant section of the Bill be passed it
will expand the range of potential candidates for judicial office by allowing legal academics to
apply for the role across various courts for the first time. This article is broken into three
segments, firstly providing a general discussion of the appointment of academics as judges with a
summary given of contemporary commentary, both academic and political. Secondly,
undertaking an analysis of the relevant section in the 2017 Bill and thirdly, providing a
comparison with the equivalent provision in England and Wales, a jurisdiction from which we
continue to model many aspects of our legal system, through analysing section 50 of the
Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007.
Academics as Judges
To the layperson the prospect of a legal academic being appointed a judge may be viewed as a
rather unremarkable occurrence. Giving speeches, reading large volumes of material and writing
to a high standard are skills many are likely to consider the essential basics of both roles. This
may betray a tendency to oversimplify descriptions of the jobs of others in comparison to our
The Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 has proven controversial since first proposed
but that is centred on the new method by which members of the judiciary shall be chosen,
creating the Judicial Appointments Commission to replace the Judicial Appointments Advisory
That however is outside the scope of this article; the focus here shall be on a section of the Bill
that has attracted only passing comment amongst politicians and the wider media. It is a
proposal that merits closer scrutiny, ultimately judges are at the very heart of our legal order, and
their decisions can have a long lasting impact on the functioning of our State and the personal
lives of its citizens. As noted by Michael Collins SC:

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