Appointment and Tenure of Judges of the Supreme Court

Eligibility criteria for appointment to the Supreme Court

Under section 5 of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961, as amended, the following persons are qualified for appointment to the Supreme Court:

(i) 

The President of the Court of Appeal;                                                            

(ii)

An ordinary Judge of the Court of Appeal;

(iii)

The President of the High Court;

(iii) An ordinary Judge of the High Court;
(iv) A Judge of the Circuit Court who has served in that Court for no less than two years;
(v) A person who, at any time during the two-year period immediately before the appointment, has served as:
   a Judge or Advocate General of the European Court of Justice; 
   a Judge of the European Court of Human Rights; 
   a Judge of the International Court of Justice; 

a judge of the International Criminal Court; or 

  a Judge of an international tribunal within the meaning of s. 2 of the International War Crimes Tribunals Act, 1998. 

    

Such person must have been a practising barrister or solicitor before such appointment.

(vi)

A barrister or solicitor of not less than twelve years' standing who has practised for a continuous period of not less than two years before such appointment. (This is the statutory minimum requirement: in practice, persons appointed to judicial office are invariably lawyers of high standing with many more years of experience than this minimum requirement.)

Appointment Procedure

Under the applicable constitutional provisions it is the function of the Government to decide who should be appointed to the Supreme Court. The Government advises the President of Ireland of its nomination of a candidate for appointment and the President formally makes the appointment. 

A person who is not already a judge, and who wishes to be considered for appointment to the Supreme Court, may apply to the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) requesting that he or she be recommended as suitable for such appointment.

The JAAB is an independent Board chaired by the Chief Justice. The three Presidents of each level of jurisdiction (District, Circuit and High Court) are also members of the Board. While a majority of the members are judges, there are two representatives from the legal profession and two non-lawyers. The role of the Board is purely advisory. The JAAB considers all the applications before it in relation to that appointment and draws up a list of persons whom it considers suitably qualified for appointment. This list is forwarded to the Government. Generally speaking, the Government is confined to appointing persons (other than judges) who have been approved by the Board.

The Oireachtas has reserved a power to the Government to appoint a person who has not applied to, and has not been considered by, the JAAB. If it does so it must publish in Iris Oifigiúil (the Official Gazette) a notice stating that it has made such an appointment outside the JAAB procedure.

Security of Tenure

According to Article 35.2 of the Constitution "All judges shall be independent in the exercise of their judicial functions and subject only to this Constitution and the law." Every person appointed a judge must take the oath set out in Article 34.5.1 of the Constitution as follows:

            "In the presence of Almighty God, I do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will duly and faithfully and to the best of my knowledge and power execute the office of Chief Justice (or as the case may be) without fear or favour, affection or ill-will towards any man, and that I will uphold the Constitution and the laws. May God direct and sustain me."              

Under Article 35.4.1 of the Constitution no judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court may be removed from office except for stated misbehaviour or incapacity, and then only upon resolutions passed by Dáil Éireann and by Seanad Éireann calling for his removal.

Article 35.5.1 holds that "The remuneration of judges shall not be reduced during their continuance in office save in accordance with this section."

Tenure

Under the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995 the retirement age of ordinary judges of the Supreme Court was reduced from 72 years to 70 years. Judges appointed prior to the coming into operation of that Act may continue in office until aged 72.

The Courts (No. 2) Act 1997 limited the term of office of a person appointed to the post of Chief Justice after the coming into operation of the Act to a period of seven years, which may be shorter where a Chief Justice's term terminates earlier by virtue of his having reached the statutory retirement age. A former Chief Justice may continue as a member of the Court until he or she reaches the statutory retirement age.