Judicial appointments reform clears the Seanad

Judicial appointments reform clears the Seanad

Helen McEntee

Legislation providing for the establishment of a new Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) has competed its final stages in the Seanad and is likely to soon become law.

The Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2022, which represents the most significant reforms to the judicial appointments process in 25 years, will replace the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) with a new body.

Previous attempts to reform the process struggled to progress due to disagreements on the composition of any new body. The proposed JAC will be chaired by the Chief Justice and will have an equal number of lay members and judge members.

Speaking at the Bar of Ireland chair’s dinner last week, justice minister Helen McEntee said the bill “has been debated long enough, and we need now to progress with reform”.

Commenting on the passage of the bill in the Seanad, she said: “This represents an important step forward in the reform of the judicial appointments process, as committed to in my Justice Plan 2023.

“The recognised excellence of our judges and judiciary will be further enhanced by the provisions of this bill, which introduces a new recommendation and appointments process and ensures that judicial selection is conducted in a modern, open and transparent way.

“The new legislation will ensure that anyone who wishes to be considered for appointment to judicial office, including serving judges, will apply to the Commission and undergo the same application and interview processes.

“Furthermore, the establishment of a new, independent Judicial Appointments Commission will ensure that the selection of nominees for judicial office will be through fair and open competition from the widest range of possible candidates.”

Mrs McEntee added: “The enactment of this legislation will enable the continued appointment of excellent judges, which are a cornerstone of a strong, independent judiciary. This independence is important in ensuring public confidence in the courts to uphold the law.

“I look forward to working with all members of the Houses of the Oireachtas to bring this legislation to enactment as soon as possible.”

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