The Good Stuff: When an Irish Judge takes office, he swears to uphold the following ‘Ten Canons of Justice’ as outlined in Article 14 of the Judicial Code of Conduct:, declaring; “It is to these truths and ideals that I shall hold my office and no other:”
1. That I (a judge) shall seek to perform the duties and responsibilities of office to the best of my abilities;
2. That I (a judge) pledge my allegiance to the constitution of United Ireland and shall do all within my power to protect its sovereignty and integrity;
3. That I (a judge) pledge my honor and duty to upholding the essential rights of every human being and the values of just society;
4. That I (a judge) shall always uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary;
5. That I (a judge) shall executive the duties of my office without fear or favour;
6. That I (a judge) shall never allow my personal life, relationships or beliefs to be associated with, or influence in my judgment in any matter before me;
7. That I (a judge) shall seek to render judgment with care, precision and without delay;
8. That I (a judge) shall refrain from extra-judicial activities excepting those that seek to enhance the status of law and administration of justice;
9. That I (a judge) shall refrain from public and political comment whilst in office;
10. That I (a judge) shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety;
Inasmuch as any of our Judges genuinely and sincerely endeavour to abide by these canons, then they should undoubtedly be respected and admired, and rewarded through the full and wholesome appreciation of Irish society for their crucial contribution in maintaining a functioning democracy.
The Not-So-Good Stuff: The Irish Independent newspaper recently reported that five out of six newly-appointed Judges were found to have “close political links to the current government” at the time they were appointed. Likewise, a study of judicial appointments since 1995 found that at least a third of the 168 newly-appointed judges had “personal or political connections to political parties before being appointed to the bench”. The added fact that at a time when the country is in a financial crisis, Irish Judges are the second-highest paid in Europe; enjoy some of the most generous privileges and benefits; and share the highest number of personal assistants, makes a judicial appointment a much-sought-after career move - for those who qualify. Unfortunately, the process of ‘qualifying’ individuals for appointment to the bench also raises uncomfortable questions which the government repeatedly refuses to answer. An independent TD recently stated; “Judges do not have to be interviewed or answer specific questions and it is an advantage to have political affiliations”. The same TD asked how judges are vetted before they get the job? He said it seemed the refusal of the Government to answer the question meant, “the old political jobbery” was in place.Notwithstanding the requirement that newly-appointed Judges affirm their adherence to The Judicial Code of Conduct, it is difficult to reconcile the notion of genuine judicial independence (or judicial competence) against the backdrop of such thinly-disguised political cronyism - especially when so many apparently-unconstitutional decisions are being made in our Courts which directly or indirectly favour the often-illegitimate interests of the connected elite.
The Really Bad and Depressing Stuff: Amongst the current members of Integrity Ireland who have taken legal action in one form or another, not one of them would recommend the process here in Ireland. Each reports serious inconsistencies between the activities and decisions of individual Judges at various levels, so much so that the prospect of coming before any given Judge is described at best (even by some members’ legal teams) as ‘a lottery’. Court rules are selectively ‘dismissed’ by one Judge for example - and then selectively ‘enforced’ by another, thus causing bewildered litigants additional costs and delays. Irrefutable evidence that implicates ‘connected persons’ is regularly blocked, ignored or dismissed, and no direct action is taken against blatant perjury, forgery and contempt of Court. Many such bewildering, and clearly-unconstitutional decisions are being regularly made in our Courts that can only be accounted for as acts of mind-boggling incompetence (which is very hard to believe) or, as deliberate acts of intentional bias - the private motives for which remain a disquieting area of morbid speculation. Some decisions are so obviously improper and unjust - especially when lay litigants are representing themselves - that one wonders how long this malfeasance has been going on - and at what cost to our democracy? This naturally leads the concerned citizen to question the overall integrity of a justice system that allows and encourages - and apparently even rewards - those who indulge in blatant nepotism, bias and other unconstitutional activities, ostensibly whilst ‘serving the interests of justice’. Whilst it is an obvious fundamental tenet of any genuine democracy that its justice system is - in the main - beyond reproach, and that its Judges are comprised of the very best and the wisest of its citizens; it is a shameful indictment of the Irish justice system incorporating the police, the legal system. the Courts and the Ministry of Justice that so many Irish citizens express resignation and dismay at the prospect of going to Court, and have little faith that they will receive a fair and equitable Hearing. In the UK and other Common Law jurisdictions there is a concept called “The Overriding Objective” which ensures that cases are held in a fair, expedient and cost-effective manner. No so in today’s Ireland, where the opposite seems to be the norm - where cases are so burdensome, costly and convoluted as to render the concept of ‘fairness’ totally redundant. The questions remain; how long before Judges are appointed on moral merit? And how long will we have to wait for the establishment of a proper judicial oversight body?
Members of the current JAA Board include the Chief Justice, the Presidents of the various Courts and the Attorney General, as well as a handful of nominees by the Minister of Justice.
Despite having the resources to advertise, interview and recommend suitable individuals for nomination by the President of Ireland, it was disclosed in the Dail in Feb 2014 that in the ten years of existence of the JAAB to date, that not even ONE single interview has been conducted!
Meanwhile it seems, the same old ‘jobs for the boys’ system continues to work behind the scenes!
The Head of the Association of Judges of Ireland has stated publicly that the creation of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) in 1996 "was done to create the semblance of independence as to how judges were appointed" but "the JAAB by common consent, doesn't really work."
So, why all the declarations of ‘real change’ and why all the pretences of real changes being made?
Who do you think is being fooled here again folks?
Meanwhile, a letter sent ‘on behalf of’ the Chief Justice informs us that ‘regrettably’ there is no facility at present via the Chief Justice’s Office to complain about judicial misconduct..or indeed, to complain anywhere about anything worse.. And very interestingly.. (see below)..
..the Twenty-second Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2001 [relating to the removal of a judge from office and providing for a body to be established by law to investigate or cause to be investigated conduct constituting misbehaviour by a judge or affected by incapacity of a judge] was not passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas.