Role of the judge
The judge in an Irish courtroom usually sits on a raised platform at the top of the court and wears white collars and a black gown.
In the past, judges in Ireland were referred to as "My Lord", or "His Lordship". Now, they are addressed as "Judge" or referred to as "The Court". The only exception to this is in the case of the Chief Justice and Presidents of the various lower courts, who are addressed by their titles.
Judgments and juries
If there is no jury
If there is no jury in a case, it is the judge who decides which party wins and which party loses.
The judge may give the judgment in the case at the end of the trial or they may "reserve" the judgment. When a judgment is reserved, the judge will take time to consider the case and then at some later stage deliver the judgment.
If there is a jury
If there is a jury in the case, it is usually the jury that decides the outcome of the case.
The judge provides guidance to the jury and makes sure that the trial is run properly. The jury in a criminal trial has the very important function of deciding whether the person accused of the crime is guilty or not guilty.
You can read more about the role of the jury in the courtroom.
Appointment of judges
Judges in Ireland are appointed by the President acting on the advice of the Government.
In most cases, the Government decides who to appoint as a judge after it has been advised by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board. This Board identifies and informs the Government about suitable barristers and solicitors who have applied for the job.
Membership of the Judicial Appointments Board consist of:
- The Chief Justice
- President of the Court of Appeal
- President of the High Court
- President of the Circuit Court
- President of the District Court
- The Attorney General
- A practicing barrister, solicitor and 3 Ministerial appointments
The Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2022
The Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2022 would reform how judges are appointed. If the bill becomes law, the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board will be replaced by a new body, the Judicial Appointments Commission.
Experience needed to become a judge
Judges must have at least 10 years’ experience as a barrister or solicitor before being appointed to the District Court and at least 12 years’ experience before being appointed to the High Court, Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court. Usually, they have many more years of experience before they are appointed.
The Courts Act 2023
Complaints about judges
If you are not satisfied with the outcome or judgment of a criminal trial or civil action, you should get legal advice. You may be able to appeal a judgment to a higher court.
Who can complain?
Complaints about the conduct of a judge can be made to the Judicial Council. You cannot complain to the Judicial Council about the outcome of your case.
You can complain to the Judicial Council if you:
- Were directly affected by the alleged misconduct
- Witnessed the alleged misconduct
You can complain about the conduct of a judge on behalf of:
- A child, if you are their parent or guardian
- An incapacitated person, if you have legal authorisation
An authorised officer of the Bar Council of Ireland can make a complaint on behalf of a barrister, and an authorised officer of the Law Society of Ireland can make a complaint on behalf of a solicitor.
Time limits for complaints
You must make the complaint within 3 months of the alleged misconduct. The time limit may be extended if the Judicial Council decides that there are good reasons for doing so.
How to complain
You can make a complaint online by completing the online complaint form on the Judicial Council’s website.
You can also fill out a complaint form (pdf) and post it to the Registrar to the Judicial Conduct Committee (see ‘Contacts’ below).
You can read more about how complaints are handled and the types of outcomes you can expect on the Judicial Council’s website.
Judges appointed after 2011 are assigned a judicial assistant rather than a tipstaff or crier.
Some judicial assistants are assigned to the work directly with judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court and Circuit Court.
Assistants assigned to specific judges assist the judge with:
- Preparing for cases
- Communicating with the parties to a case
They also combine the role of judicial assistant with that of the traditional tipstaff or crier.
There are still a small number of tipstaff who usually work with judges appointed up to 2011.
Judicial Research Office
Other judicial assistants are assigned to the Judicial Research Office (JRO), where they are made available to judges without a designated judicial assistant.
The JRO completes research, prepares material for publication, compiles handbooks, and proof-reads judgments and other documents for judges across all jurisdictions.