Judicial Council unable to deal with judges’ behaviour for another nine months 

Council has no power to hold disciplinary hearings or complaints against judges 
Long-awaited procedures to deal with the behaviour and ethics of judges may not become operational for another nine months, according to the Department of Justice. 
 
While the Judicial Council has been operational since December 2019, the parts of the legislation that give the council powers to hold disciplinary hearings, or receive complaints against a judge, have yet to commence. 
 
The absence of any such legal provision was the reason why a non-statutory review was conducted on the controversy arising from Mr Justice Séamus Woulfe’s attendance at the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Co Galway in August. 
 
A judicial conduct committee was established by the council on June 30th last. Under the provisions of the Judicial Council Act, it now has a maximum of 12 months to produce guidelines concerning judicial conduct and ethics. 
 
The outer limit for the submission is June 20th, 2021 and the guidelines then need to be adopted by the Judicial Council. Once that happens, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will make “orders without delay” bringing into operation those disciplinary provisions. 
 
The department said there was nothing to preclude the guidelines from being completed earlier than the end of June next year. “The Minister would like these guidelines completed as soon as possible,” said a spokesman. 
 
Hugh O’Flaherty 
The lack of a statutory mechanism to deal with judicial conduct first came to public prominence in 1998 following the involvement of then Supreme Court judge Hugh O’Flaherty in re-listing a case. 
 
However, it took more than 20 years for the long-promised Judicial Council to be established. 
 
Once the Act is fully operational, any complaint against a judge can be investigated by the council on a statutory basis, and any appropriate action taken. 
 
For full article see: The Irish Times 
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