The Judicial Appointments Commission Bill is a step towards more transparency and accountability in the appointment of judges – but more needs to be done to ensure diversity in the wider legal profession, the Social Democrats said today.
The party’s co-leaders, Róisín Shortall TD and Catherine Murphy TD, said diversity in the judiciary will only be achieved with wider reforms of the legal profession, which remains a closed shop to many sections of society.
Deputy Shortall said:
“While this bill signals a move to a merit-based system of judicial appointments, the wider issue of the need for our judiciary to reflect the diversity of our population still needs to be addressed. How can this be achieved without significant reform of the legal profession which remains a closed shop to many sections of society? Access to the profession is restrictive and expensive and results in it being a quite elitist sector. The profile of judges will not change until the legal profession itself is opened up to wider society.”
Deputy Murphy added:
“Questions have been raised about the capacity of lay members of the Judicial Appointments Commission to make recommendations without first-hand knowledge of the workings the judiciary. However, the real issue here is that the criteria used for appointments needs to be appropriate and fair and the process must be transparent.”