Mrs. Justice Susan Denham was appointed the 11th Chief Justice of Ireland on the 25th July, 2011, by the then President of Ireland, Her Excellency Mrs. Mary McAleese.
Judge Denham was educated at Alexandra College, Dublin; University of Dublin, Trinity College; King’s Inns and Columbia University, New York, U.S.A. She was called to the Bar in 1971 and became a Senior Counsel in 1987. As a barrister she practised on the Midland Circuit and in Dublin, and had a general practice with a specialisation in Judicial Review cases. Appointed a Judge of the High Court in 1991, in December 1992 she was the first woman appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court. Judgments of the Supreme Court may be accessed on www.courts.ie.
Judge Denham chaired the Working Group on a Courts Commission established by the Government to review the management of the Courts, which published six reports and two working papers, leading to the establishment of the Courts Service in November 1999. These reports may be found at www.courts.ie. Judge Denham was a member of the Interim Board, and of the Board of the Courts Service from 1999 to 2001, and chaired the Family Law Development Committee until 2001. She chaired the Courts Service Board from 2001 to 2004; and the Finance Committee from 2001 to 2004. Judge Denham currently chairs the Irish Sentencing Committee, the Steering Committee established to plan for and provide a system of information on sentencing. Since her appointment as Chief Justice in 2011, Judge Denham chairs the Board of the Courts Service; its Finance Committee; the Committee for Judicial Studies; the Superior Court Rules Committee; the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board; the interim Judicial Council, and the Courts Centenary Commemorations Committee.
Judge Denham was the Honorary Secretary of the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Ethics which in 2000 presented a report advising the establishment of a Judicial Council in Ireland. This is a matter which Judge Denham has advocated for over ten years.
Judge Denham was part of the Irish delegation which, with Holland and Belgium, established the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ) and she continues an involvement in this Network.
Judge Denham was President of the Network of the Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the European Union, an association of Supreme Court Presidents and Chief Justices of EU Member States, from 1st January 2015 to 31st December 2016.
Judge Denham is the Chairperson of the Committee on Court Practice and Procedure, which advises on the need for change in various areas of the operation of the courts. One such recommendation has seen the establishment of a Commercial Court in Dublin, which uses state of the art technology in its deliberations. The Committee has also advised on the establishment of a new administrative infrastructure for the Courts Rules Committees. These reports may also be seen on the above website.
In December 2006 the Government established a Working Group on a Court of Appeal, chaired by Judge Denham. The Working Group presented its report to the Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform recommending the establishment of a general Court of Appeal, it was published in 2009. The Report and the Executive Summary are on www.courts.ie.
As Chief Justice, Judge Denham is a member of the Presidential Commission in accordance with Article 14 of the Constitution; and is also an ex officio member of the Council of State in accordance with Article 31 of the Constitution.
Judge Denham is a Trustee of the Holocaust Education Trust Ireland, and is a Governor of Marsh's Library, Dublin.
Judge Denham is a Bencher of the Honorable Society of King’s Inns since 1991, and an Honorary Bencher of the Middle Temple in London since 2005. Judge Denham is an Honorary Bencher of the Inns of Court of Northern Ireland since 2011.
Judge Denham is a Member of the Royal Irish Academy since 2013. From 1996 to 2010 Judge Denham was Pro-Chancellor of the University of Dublin. In July 2002, Queens University, Belfast, presented Judge Denham with an honorary Ll.D. In 2013, Judge Denham was conferred with an honorary Ll.D. from the University of Ulster, and a Distinguished Fellowship Award from Griffith College Dublin. In 2014, Chief Justice Denham was conferred with an honorary Ll.D. from University College Dublin and a D.Phil from Dublin City University.
Judge Denham has spoken at conferences on many topics over the years. See, for example, the oration on the 21st Century Judge given to the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration, a copy of which may be found at the following link: http://www.aija.org.au/Orations/Oration10.pdf
On her appointment as Chief Justice, Judge Denham issued a statement, which can be accessed here.
In June 2012, Judge Denham delivered a keynote speech to mark the seventy fifth anniversary of the enactment of the Constitution of Ireland. This speech entitled "Some thoughts on the Constitution of Ireland at 75" was published in Carolan (ed) The Constitution of Ireland: Perspectives and Prospects (Bloomsbury Professional 2012) and it is available here: Chief Justice's Speech
In March 2013, Judge Denham delivered a speech entitled "Unsustainable" at the Seminar on the establishment of a Court of Appeal and it is available here: Chief Justice's Speech
On 10th November 2014, the Chief Justice delivered a lecture entitled "John J. Hearne: A Drafter of the Irish Constitution" in Waterford. It is available here:
Chief Justice Denham Lecture on Mr. John J. Hearne SC