To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will outline the process whereby a member of the judiciary may be disciplined if they have not been able to fulfil their duties in a competent manner, if there has been any issue of misconduct or if there is a question over of their ability to practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister Shatter Reply;
As the Deputy will be aware that Article 35.4.1 of the Constitution provides: ‘A judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court shall not be removed from office except for stated misbehaviour or incapacity, and then only upon resolutions passed by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann calling for his removal’. Short of removal from office following such an impeachment process, which has never been used to date, there are currently no provisions which permit a member of the judiciary to be “disciplined” as envisaged in the Deputy’s question.
The Deputy will be aware, however, that the Agreed Programme for Government contains a commitment to legislate to establish a Judicial Council to provide an effective mechanism for dealing with complaints against judges and this commitment is being given expression in the form of the proposed Judicial Council Bill. As well as providing for the establishment of a Judicial Council and Board that will promote excellence and high standards of conduct by judges, the proposed Bill aims to provide a means of investigating allegations of judicial misconduct supported by the establishment of a Judicial Conduct Committee which will have lay representation.
In November 2011, the Chief Justice announced that the judiciary had agreed to establish an Interim Judicial Council pending the publication and enactment of the proposed Judicial Council Bill. A sub-committee of the Board of the Interim Judicial Council was subsequently established to consider the General Scheme for a Judicial Council Bill a version of which had been published by the previous Government in August 2010 and this sub-committee has provided observations which are the subject of ongoing consideration and consultation taking account of intervening developments and current Government policy. This continuing work will inform the framing and drafting of the new Bill in conjunction with the Offices of Parliamentary Counsel and of the Attorney General. I intend to publish the Bill in the course of 2013.