David Barniville nominated as president of High Court
Posted on 21st June 2022 at 20:59
Government names popular Court of Appeal judge for third most senior judicial position
The Government has decided to nominate David Barniville as the next president of the High Court, the third most senior judicial appointment here.
Mr Justice Barniville is currently a judge of the Court of Appeal on foot of his appointment in August 2021, having previously served as a High Court judge from late 2017.
Called to the Bar in 1990, he became a senior counsel in 2006. He had a wide-ranging practice, but was especially busy in the commercial, constitutional and administrative law areas where he drew on skills honed as a result of ‘devilling’ - serving his apprenticeship - at the Bar with senior counsel Paul Gallagher, now Attorney General.
He acted for the State in many high profile cases, including the controversial application by the Minister for Finance during the financial crisis in late December 2010 to effectively nationalise Allied Irish Banks with a €3.7 billion injection of public money.
He also represented the State in litigation over the recapitalisation of Irish Life & Permanent. He was part of the legal team representing former government Minister Michael Lowry at the beef tribunal.
He represented Ireland in several European court cases, including the State’s successful appeal over a European Commission finding that Ireland granted illegal tax benefits to tech giant Apple.
He was a former chairman of the Bar Council and former president of the Association of Judges of Ireland, the judges’ representative body.
While on the High Court bench, Mr Justice Barniville managed that court’s Commercial Court list and also ran the Strategic Infrastructural Development list for a time. His judgments include a decision overturning permission for an incinerator in Cork harbour, and directing reconsideration of the planning application, after finding objective bias in the planning process.
In another case, he granted orders to UEFA, European football’s governing body, requiring several internet service providers to block illegal streaming of matches for the 2020-21 season.
In a recent judgment in complex litigation over an alleged €2 billion conspiracy to defraud the majority shareholders of a giant Russian fertiliser company, Mr Justice Barniville rejected arguments on behalf of an EU sanctioned Russian billionaire, Dmitry Mazepin, that the Irish courts had no jurisdiction to deal with the case.
In his mid-50s, Mr Justice Barniville is considered young for the job of president of the High Court, which involves crucial administrative and leadership roles in the courts. The president is also an ex-officio member of the Supreme Court and is the most senior judicial role in the State after Chief Justice and president of the Court of Appeal.
Having been regarded as the front-runner to succeed Ms Justice Mary Irvine, who retires on July 14th, Mr Justice Barniville’s nomination was warmly welcomed by lawyers in the Four Courts on Tuesday.
“We all expected this, David is very popular and well liked,” one colleague said. “One of the reasons he is liked is that he does not play favourites when he is on the bench,” another said. “Everyone gets a fair crack of the whip.”
From Dublin, Mr Justice Barniville was educated at Blackrock College, University College Dublin and the King’s Inns. His late father Harry Barniville was a former international tennis player who won many domestic championships here in the 1950s and 1960s, represented Ireland in global tournaments and mentored a group of talented young players known as the Barniville Babes. Mr Justice Barniville shares his father’s passion for tennis and is a keen player.
He is married to solicitor Susan O’Connell and they have three children.
In line with the procedure for appointing judges, Mr Justice Barniville’s nomination will be passed to President Michael D. Higgins for his formal appointment.
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