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Levels of activity in courts 'overwhelming' and 'unsustainable' - Chief Justice

Susan Denham said failure to address the problems posed by Ireland’s appeal court system may be “damaging to Irish society and the economy”.

Chief Justice Susan Denham.
Chief Justice Susan Denham.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THE CHIEF JUSTICE Susan Denham has said that the levels of business and appeals before the courts are “overwhelming” and without reform, there will be further delays.

Denham was speaking yesterday at a seminar on the need for a Court of Appeal at the Law Society in Dublin.

She said a failure to address the problems posed by Ireland’s appeal court system may be “damaging to Irish society and the economy”.

The current situation in the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeal is unsustainable, it is untenable, it cannot be defended – an appeal certified as ready now is in danger of not being given a date until mid 2017, effectively a four and a half year waiting time. This waiting period is increasing as a result of the necessity to give dates to an increasing number of priority appeals.

The Chief Justice added that the previous practice of listing shorter appeals on a Friday has largely had to be discontinued as a result of “the burden of the increased motion list”.

Denham said that the structure of the superior courts in Ireland was not designed to cope with “the volume and complexity of the litigation” coming before them courts daily in the 21st century.

Speedy resolution of disputes is important in a successful economy. In particular, at this time, there are many commercial cases before the courts. While there is a specialist Commercial Court in the High Court, with its own case management rules, an appeal comes to the general list in the Supreme Court unless urgency can be illustrated, in which case it goes to the priority list.

The Chief Justice said that a Court of Appeal, which all other common law countries have, needs to be established to address these delays.

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