Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017: Committee Stage (Resumed)
Michael McDowell (Independent)
Section 35(3) deals with the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal or the High Court, and most family law, for example, is not dealt with in those courts or at that level. Indeed, most criminal law is not dealt with in those courts or at that level. Section 35(3) is confined to the superior courts. In section 50 we are dealing with, I hope, a period in time in which specialist family courts will become the norm and District Court and Circuit Court judges will tend to specialise in those cases, rather than having family law litigants waiting for the afternoon while the television licence cases are dealt with in the morning. They are dealt with later in the same day by a judge who is understandably tired after a long list in the morning and who then has to listen to a highly sensitive and emotional family law case. It is very difficult. Most Members of the House would strongly favour the increased specialisation of family law, at least, as a type of appointment in which experience would be of great significance.
Section 50(2) throws some light on the amendment we have proposed. It states, "The power to prepare a statement of requisite skills and attributes under this Part includes a power to prepare different statements of requisite skills and attributes by reference to- (a) different judicial offices". Obviously, one might have to have different attributes to be a District Court judge, a judge of the Court of Appeal or whatever. The important part is paragraph (b) which states, "in the case of judicial offices in the same court, different classes of business in that court that it is reasonably anticipated a particular appointee to such office would deal with".That brings us to the idea of people being headhunted to deal with particular categories of business. It is in this context that the requirement that experience should be up there in big, bold headlines as relevant to a person's suitability for this particular class of work should be stated unambiguously in the legislation. I do not accept that section 35(3), which deals with the Superior Courts, covers family law cases at all. If the Minister intends to look at section 50(2)(b), I hope we will deal with people who are being recruited to act as judges in specialist family law divisions of both the District and Circuit Courts. I am not minded to agree with the Minister that the term "experience" need not be inserted in the relevant subsection.