6 December 2016
The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD, has published the General Scheme of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill.
The Tánaiste said: “This Bill will deliver on the commitments in the Programme for a Partnership Government to reform the system for judicial appointments.
“There was a significant input to the development of the reforms in the public consultations process in 2014 and I want to acknowledge the many constructive and helpful contributions that were received.
“The Scheme provides for a new Commission for Judicial Appointments, including a lay chair and a lay majority. The lay members of the Commission will be selected by the Public Appointments Service and the PAS will also select the Chairperson.
“The Scheme also refers to the desirability of both gender balance and diversity based on the population among the judiciary, and among those who are selected to be lay members of the Commission.
“I look forward to working with members of the Oireachtas Justice Committee on progressing this legislation and the reform of the judicial appointments process in line with the Programme for Partnership Government.
“Finally I would say that we are fortunate to have Ireland a strong, independent, impartial and well respected judiciary and these reforms will ensure this continues.”
The General Scheme is available here http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Scheme-of-Judicial-Appointments-Commission-Bill-2016
Note to Editors
The proposals in the General Scheme of a Judicial Appointments Commission Bill :
o set out overall guiding principles for the selection of persons for recommendation for appointment to judicial office including the principle that any person to be appointed to judicial office should be appointed on merit.
o propose the replacement of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board with a new Judicial Appointments Commission, with a lay chairperson and a majority of lay members, which will have dual functions: the selection of persons for recommendation to the Government for appointment to judicial office and preparation by a sub-committee of codes of practice dealing with selection processes
o make a fundamental change from the present system where multiple names are submitted to Government and will provide for three names to be recommended for a vacancy and two additional names for each additional vacancy.
o include for the first time all appointments to judicial office, including promotions from one court to another
o introduce a new arrangement for appointments to the positions of Chief Justice, President of the Court of Appeal and President of the High Court, centred on a Committee comprising the lay Chairperson of the Commission, the Chief Justice (or if the vacancy in question is the Office of Chief Justice, the President of the Court of Appeal ), the Attorney General and the Minister which will receive through the Commission names of persons wishing to be considered for appointment to these offices, and shall recommend three names to Government.
o provide for the eligibility of a District Court judge for appointment to the High Court and change the retirement age for a District Court judge to 70 years.
o provide for the first time for circumstances in which distinguished and long standing academics will be eligible for appointment to judicial office.
o implement the Programme for Government in terms of the composition of the new Commission in that there will be a lay chair and a lay majority and will provide for a substantial judicial presence on the Commission. The lay members and chairperson of the Commission will be selected by the Public Appointments Service . The Bar Council and Law Society nominees and the Attorney General will be members of the Commission.
o The Commission will have a standalone office with its own Director.