- High Court (Ireland)
This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
the Republic of Ireland
The High Court (Irish: An Ard-Chúirt) of Ireland is a court which deals at first instance with the most serious and important civil and criminal cases. When sitting as a criminal court it is called the Central Criminal Court and there is a jury. It also acts as a court of appeal for civil cases in the Circuit Court. It also has the power to determine whether or not a law is constitutional, and of judicial review over acts of the government and other public bodies.
As to the Supreme Court, it is defined as the Court of Final Appeal, but usually hears appeals only on points of law. Its decisions as to the interpretation of the Constitution and the law are final.
- 1 Structure
- 2 Criminal cases
- 3 Civil cases
- 4 History
- 5 High Court judges
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The High Court is established by Article 34 of the Constitution of Ireland, which grants it "full original jurisdiction in and power to determine all matters and questions whether of law or fact, civil or criminal", as well as the ability to determine "the validity of any law having regard to the provisions of this Constitution". Judges are appointed by the President. However, as with almost all the President's constitutional powers, these appointments are made under "the advice of the Government". In practice, this means that the judges are nominated by the government and automatically approved by the President.
There can be at most 32 ordinary High Court judges, however the president of the Circuit Court and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court are ex officio judges of the High Court. Cases are normally heard by one judge, but the President of the High Court may order that a particular case be heard by three judges sitting together — a so-called divisional court.
Richard Johnson succeeded Joseph Finnegan as President of the High Court in December 2006, and was himself succeeded by Nicholas Kearns in October 2009. Mella Carroll was the first woman to serve on the court and did so between 1980 and 2005.
The High Court is known as the Central Criminal Court (Irish: An Phríomh-Chúirt Choiriúil) when it is hearing a criminal case. The Central Criminal Court has original jurisdiction for the following criminal offences:
- treason, (as well as aiding or concealing treason)
- murder (as well as attempted murder and conspiracy to murder)
- capital murder of a Garda or prison officer acting in the course of their duty
- a severe breach of the Geneva Conventions
- anti-Competitive Behaviour or Abuse of Dominant Market Position
- rape and other serious sexual offences
All Central Criminal Court cases are heard in front of a jury of twelve. The defendant can be convicted on a majority verdict of ten jurors. Appeals from the Central Criminal Court can be made to the Court of Criminal Appeal, and the sentence can be appealed as well as the verdict.
The High Court is the court of first instance for all civil cases where the plaintiff is claiming more than €38,092.14 (IR£30,000 late currency) in damages, this being the upper limit of the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court. By virtue of its full original jurisdiction under the Constitution, however, theoretically a civil action of any value may commence in the High Court. The Court also has power of judicial review over the acts of the government and other public bodies, including the decisions of all inferior courts, and decisions made by tribunals of inquiry.
Any non-criminal judgment or order of the High Court sitting as a court of first instance may be appealed to the Supreme Court.
The High Court also hears civil and family law appeals from the Circuit Court and when hearing such an appeal its decision is final and there is no right of further appeal. The High Court sits outside of Dublin to hear appeals from trials from circuits other than the Dublin Circuit and is known as the "High Court on Circuit".
The High Court can also hear an appeal on a point of law by way of case stated from the District Court in both civil and criminal matters and can decide consultative cases sent from judges of that court.
The current High Court is the fourth court in Ireland to bear that name. The first High Court - the High Court of Justice in Ireland - was created by the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Ireland) 1877. This fused the administration of common law and equity in Ireland (as had been done in England several years earlier under the Judicature Acts). The existing four superior courts, the Court of King's Bench (Ireland) , Court of Chancery, Court of Exchequer, and Court of Common Pleas were merged to form the High Court of Justice, although they remained as divisions of the new court. However, in Ireland, the divisions of the High Court other than the King's Bench Division and Chancery Division were abolished by 1907. The Government of Ireland Act 1920 split the court in separate courts for Northern Ireland (the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland and the High Court of Justice in Southern Ireland). Judges of the existing Court became judges of the Southern Ireland court unless they elected otherwise. With the enactment of the Constitution of the Irish Free State, the High Court became the High Court of Justice in Saorstat Éireann.
After the establishment of the Irish Free State, the Courts of Justice Act 1924 created a new courts system. The High Court of Justice was the only court from the pre-independence era to keep its name (and substantially, the same jurisdiction). However, the divisions were now completely abolished and any judge of the High Court could now hear any suit at either common law or equity. A new office of President of the High Court was established, as the previous judicial offices (Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, Vice-Chancellor, and Master of the Rolls of Ireland) were abolished under this Act. Most of the existing judges retired at this time and new judges were appointed.
After the enactment of the Constitution of Ireland, the Courts Acts 1961 established a new High Court as required by the Constitution. However this Court was in both form and name substantially identical to that established under the 1924 Act. This court is simply known as the High Court.
High Court judges
Judges of the High Court deal with both civil and criminal matters, and have jurisdiction at both common law and equity. When the High Court deals with criminal cases it sits as the Central Criminal Court.
Male judges of the Court are titled e.g. "The Honourable Mr Justice John Smith", while female judges are (depending on preference) "The Honourable Mrs/Ms/Miss Justice Jane Smith" or similar. Traditionally judges of the superior courts were addressed as "My Lord" in Court, although this was never contained in the Rules of the Superior Courts, which mandated that they be addressed by their respective titles or names, or as "The Court". Since 2006 use of the traditional form has been discouraged in favour of the form in the Rules, although continued use of "My Lord" is not unknown. In law reports, the President is cited e.g. "Smith P" while other judges are cited "Smith J". The President of the Circuit Court may sit as an additional High Court judge and occasional other Circuit Court Judges are temporarily assigned to sit ex-officio as High Court judges. The Chief Justice of Ireland is additionally an ex-officio judge of the High Court.
Current High Court judges
President of the High Court
- Nicholas Kearns (since 2009)
High Court justices
Name Since Paul Carney 1991 Declan Budd 1991 Mary Laffoy 1995 Michael Moriarty 1996 Peter Kelly 1996 John Quirke 1997 Iarfhlaith O'Neill 1999 Roderick Murphy 2000 Daniel Herbert 2000 Paul Butler 2000 Henry Abbott 2002 Éamon de Valera 2002 Mary Finlay Geoghegan 2002 Michael Peart 2002 Barry White 2002 Paul Gilligan 2003 Seán Ryan 2003 Elizabeth Dunne 2004 Michael Hanna 2004 John Mac Menamin 2004 Frank Clarke 2004 Kevin Feeney 2005 Brian McGovern 2006 Peter Charleton 2006 Maureen Clark 2006 John Hedigan 2007 Bryan MacMahon 2007 George Birmingham 2007 Mary C. Irvine 2007 John A. Edwards 2007 Patrick J. McCarthy 2007 Garrett Sheehan 2007 Daniel O'Keeffe 2007 John Cooke 2007 Gerard Hogan 2010
Name Office Susan Denham President of the Supreme Court Matthew Deery President of the Circuit Court
Previous High Court judges (from 1924)
Name Term of office Timothy Sullivan 1924–1936 James Creed Meredith 1924–1936 Thomas O'Shaughnessy 1924–1925 William E. Wylie 1924–1936 William J. Johnston 1924–1939 James A. Murnaghan 1924–1925 Henry Hanna 1925–1943 John O'Byrne 1926–1940 Conor Maguire 1936 George Gavan Duffy 1936–1951 William Black 1939–1942 Martin C. Maguire 1940–1954 Kevin Haugh 1942–1961 Andrew Kingsbury Overend 1943–1947 Cahir Davitt 1945–1966 Kevin Dixon 1946–1959 T. C. Kingsmill Moore 1947–1951 Charles Casey 1951–1952 Frederick O. Budd 1951–1965 Richard McLoughlin 1952–1969 George D. Murnaghan 1954–1979 Thomas Teevan 1954–1971 Brian Walsh 1959–1961 John Kenny 1961–1975 Seán Butler 1966–1980 Alfred D. Pringle 1969–1974 Frank Griffin 1971–1973 Thomas Finlay 1972–1985 John Gannon 1973–1990 Tom O'Higgins 1973–1974 Kenneth Deale 1974 Liam Hamilton 1974–1994 Weldon Parke 1974–1976 Thomas A. Doyle 1974–1984 James G. McMahon 1975–1986 Herbert R. McWilliam 1976–1985 Declan Costello 1977–1998 James A. D'Arcy 1977–1986 Ronan Keane 1979–1996 William Ellis 1979–1983 Donal Barrington 1979–1989 Mella Carroll 1980–2005 Roderick O'Hanlon 1981–1995 Edward Walsh 1981–1982 Henry Barron 1982–1997 Francis Murphy 1982–1996 Kenin Lynch 1984–1996 Seamus F. Egan 1984–1991 Robert Barr 1985–2002 Gerard Lardner 1985–1993 John Blaney 1986–1992 John McKenzie 1986–1991 Richard Johnson 1987–2009 Frederick Morris 1990–2001 Susan Denham 1991–1992 Feargus Flood 1991–2000 Hugh Geoghegan 1992–2000 Dermot Kinlen 1993–2002 Brian McCracken 1995–2002 Peter Shanley 1996–1998 Catherine McGuinness 1996–2000 Thomas C. Smyth 1996–2008 Diarmuid O'Donovan 1996–2007 Philip O'Sullivan 1997–2006 Kevin C. O'Higgins 1997–2008 Matthew P. Smith 1998–2004 Cyril C. Kelly 1998–1999 Nicholas Kearns 1998–2004 Fidelma Macken 1998–1999 Aindrias Ó Caoimh 1999–2004 Joseph Finnegan 1999–2001 Liam McKechnie 2000–2010 Seán O'Leary 2003–2006 Fidelma Macken 2004–2005
Master of the High Court
- Edmund Honohan, SC
Presidents of the High Court since 1924
Name Term of office Timothy Sullivan 1924–1936 Conor Maguire 1936–1946 George Gavan Duffy 1946–1951 Cahir Davitt 1951–1966 Aindrias Ó Caoimh 1966–1974 Thomas Finlay 1974–1985 Liam Hamilton 1985–1994 Harry Whelehan 15–17 Nov 1994 Declan Costello 1995–1998 Frederick Morris 1998–2001 Joseph Finnegan 2001–2006 Richard Johnson 2006–2009 Nicholas Kearns 2009–present
- ^ http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/1007/1224256099847.html
- ^ Treason Act 1939
- ^ a b Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961
- ^ Criminal Justice Act 1964
- ^ Genocide Act 1973
- ^ Geneva Conventions Act 1973
- ^ Competition Act 2002
- ^ Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990
- ^ http://www.courts.ie/Courts.ie/Library3.nsf/pagecurrent/8B9125171CFBA78080256DE5004011F8?opendocument&l=en
- ^ The Superior Courts of Law: 'Official' Law Reporting in Ireland 1866-2006, Eamonn G. Hall, Pages 521-530 ISBN780946738083
- ^ The Superior Courts of Law: 'Official' Law Reporting in Ireland 1866-2006, Eamonn G. Hall. pages 519-520
- ^ The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921, Francis Erlington Ball ISBN 1846300746
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