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New Bill Will Implement Biggest Reform To Judicial Appointments In Decades.

Minister Mrs Helen McEntee publishes Bill to implement biggest reform to judicial appointments in decades.

  • Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2022 provides clear process for appointing judges.
  • New measures mean all candidates, including serving judges, will undergo new application and interview procedures.
  • Candidates will be required to undergo judicial training or continuous professional development.

The Minister for Justice, Mrs Helen McEntee, T.D., has today announced that the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2022, was approved by Government earlier this week and will be published shortly.
This represents an important step forward in the reform of the judicial appointments process as committed to by the Minister, most recently in Justice Plan 2022.

This Bill, when enacted, will lead to the biggest reform in the way judges are chosen for appointment in a quarter of a century.

A number of key changes have been made to the Bill from the General Scheme as published by Minister McEntee in December 2020.

The changes include:

* Number of recommendations – 3 persons to be recommended instead of 5 recommendations as provided for in the General Scheme and an additional 2 recommendations for a second and additional vacancies. For example, this would mean seven recommendations for three vacancies

* Only persons recommended by the Judicial Appointments Commission to be recommend by the Government for appointment by the President

* Interviews – Any person – new applicants and serving judges seeking promotion to higher courts – who is to be recommended to the Minister for Justice for appointment should have been interviewed by the Judicial Appointments Commission

* Diversity – The Commission will be required to publish a diversity statement committing to the objective that membership of the judiciary should reflect the diversity of the population as a whole.

* Continuous Professional Development – Candidates will be required to show they have undertaken judicial training or continuous professional development

Minister McEntee said:
“In the hundred years since the foundation of the state, our judges and our judiciary have served us extremely well. In proposing this legislation, I hope that it will enable the continued appointment of excellence judges which are a cornerstone of a strong, independent judiciary.
It is vital that we have a very clear process for judicial appointments, one that people understand and have full confidence in.

The Bill I am publishing today allows for the establishment of a Judicial Appointments Commission of nine members, chaired by the Chief Justice, to replace the current Judicial Appointments Advisory Board.
All 4 lay members of the Commission will be selected and recommended by the Public Appointments Service.
The current JAAB process only concerns first-time judicial appointments, with no statutory advisory role in place relating to appointments from the ranks of serving judges.

This Bill 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.
Membership of the judiciary should also reflect the diversity of the population as a whole and a new diversity statement will commit the Judicial Appointments Commission to that objective.

I look forward to working with all members of the Houses of the Oireachtas to bring this legislation to enactment as soon as possible.”

The approval of this Bill follows a substantial process of consultations, in particular with the Attorney General, the European Commission and the Chief Justice.

Commenting on the changes made in the Bill to the General Scheme, Minister McEntee stated:
“In a change from the previously published General Scheme, three persons are to be recommended instead of five, with an additional two recommendations for a second and additional vacancies. This will ensure that we are meeting all of our necessary obligations under EU law.
I am strongly of the view that a candidate should be recommended only after being interviewed, so I have made this a requirement in the Bill.
Additionally, I have included a requirement that judicial appointments will reflect the need for candidates to undergo judicial training or continuous professional development.
I am committed to improving training and continuous professional development right across the justice sector. This is crucial to providing a better service to people who need to engage with our justice system and those who work within it – from our Gardaí to our judges – and I am pleased the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill reflects this priority.”

The Judicial Appointments Commission will set out best practice selection procedures including interviews and the knowledge, skills and attributes required of judges.

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