Opinion Editorial, Court of Appeal just a new version of Supreme Court — Only More Costly
Seth Barrett Tillman, Opinion Editorial, Court of Appeal just a new version of Supreme Court—only more costly, The Irish Times (July 28, 2014, 1:30 AM), Business & Innovation at 7.
3 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2014 Last revised: 15 Apr 2015
Date Written: July 28, 2014
The Justice Minister’s just-published Court of Appeal Bill 2014 is a train wreck. This Government and former Justice Minister Alan Shatter spent millions running a referendum seeking the public’s blessing for a constitutional amendment authorising an intermediate court of appeal. But as minister Shatter admitted at the time: no constitutional amendment was needed. We know this because an intermediate court of criminal appeal has existed for decades, and its decisions and jurisdiction have been regularly upheld by the Supreme Court of Ireland.
The Government won its referendum for a new court on October 4th, 2013. The Government’s bill could have been prepared prior to the referendum, and then readied for prompt publication after what was widely predicted success at the polls.
Instead, nine months later, the new Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, is introducing an implementation statute setting up the new court. Why the lengthy delay? The bill is only 38 substantive pages. Nine months and 38 pages – a leisurely six lines per day! Incredibly, after all this time, the Minister does not contemplate opening the new court for another two to five months.
I have read the Bill. I see no new choices in regard to the conduct of litigation. The proposed Court of Appeal is just a new version of the Supreme Court. The primary difference is the Supreme Court has nine regular members, but the Court of Appeal will have 10. One thing is certain: once the new court is established, it will be a permanent drain on the exchequer.
The Government told the public during the referendum the purpose of the new court was to resolve expeditiously the Supreme Court’s four-year, 500-plus case backlog.
Divert its backlog In other words, it is expected the Supreme Court will divert its backlog to the new court. But no one explained how the 10-member court would be any more effective at ploughing through this backlog than the nine-member Supreme Court we have. It is difficult to believe one extra judge will make any difference.
The Supreme Court is behind on its list for one reason: the rules and traditions that guide the conduct of litigation make no sense. Should the new court carry on using the same (or similar) procedural framework used by the Supreme Court, it will be weighed down by the exact same backlog in the exact same way.
Keywords: court of appeal backlog judicial overreach
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