Successor to President of the High Court must ‘drive reform’
Posted on 11th May 2020 at 20:44
Speculation about who might step into retiring Mr Justice Peter Kelly’s shoes is rife
The race is on for selection of the next president of the High Court as Mr Justice Peter Kelly is due to retire from the post next month.
Mr Justice Kelly, who was appointed to the position in 2015, is compelled to retire because he turns 70 in June.
Those interested in applying for the post, one of the top three positions in the superior courts, must apply by May 21st to a non-statutory advisory committee comprising the Chief Justice Mr Justice Frank Clarke, Attorney General Séamus Woulfe and Jane Williams of Sia Partners management consultancy.
Each applicant must provide a 1,000-word statement setting out their suitability for the office and outlining, among other things, their capacity to “drive reform”.
The committee will make recommendations to Government concerning the suitability of applicants but those are not binding and the final decision will be made by Cabinet.
Speculation about who might step into Mr Justice Kelly’s shoes is rife but it has proven difficult in the past to predict the outcome, underlined by the fact Mr Justice Kelly’s own appointment in 2015 was largely unanticipated while few predicted the appointment of his predecessors, Nicholas Kearns, Richard Johnson and Joseph Finnegan. The fact that a government has yet to be formed further complicates the situation.
Among names being discussed are the High Court’s Mr Justice David Barniville, Ms Justice Caroline Costello and Mr Justice Séamus Noonan of the Court of Appeal (COA), and the Supreme Court’s Ms Justice Mary Irvine. A dark horse mentioned by some is another High Court judge, Mr Justice Denis McDonald.
Mr Justice Barniville, a former chairman of the Bar Council and former head of the Association of Judges of Ireland, currently manages the Commercial Court list. As a barrister, he specialised in commercial law and represented the State in many cases, including the controversial nationalisation of AIB two days before Christmas 2010.
Ms Justice Costello and Ms Justice Irvine are also perceived as strong potential candidates with some sources suggesting there would be considerable support for a first female president of the High Court.
Ms Justice Costello’s father, Declan Costello, was a former attorney general and High Court president while her grandfather John A Costello was a former taoiseach. Her practice as a barrister centred mainly on commercial, banking law and insolvency law. Appointed to the High Court in 2010, she resisted efforts by Facebook to prevent a reference to the Court of Justice of the EU concerning the validity of EU-US data transfer channels. She was appointed to the Court of Appeal in 2018.
Ms Justice Irvine had a considerable practice in medical law before her appointment to the High Court in 2007. She was elevated to the COA in 2014 and served there until 2019 when she was appointed to the Supreme Court. As a COA judge, she delivered several judgments reducing personal injury awards. Last year, she was appointed to chair the Cervical Check tribunal.
Mr Justice Noonan was appointed to the COA in October 2019, having served as a High Court judge since 2014 where he ran the judicial review and non-jury list. Mr Justice McDonald was appointed as a High Court judge in 2018 and currently manages that court’s strategic infrastructure list. As a barrister, he practised mainly in commercial law. He has a comprehensive knowledge of High Court practices and procedures, having worked previously in the High Court central office.
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