This week marked a historic week for the Irish judiciary and courts system as a number of measures were put in place to give effect to the Court of Appeal Act 2014.

On Tuesday, 28 October 2014, Ireland's new Court of Appeal was formally established by an order signed by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald.

On Wednesday 29 October, the Chief Justice, The Hon Mrs Justice Susan Denham issued a direction specifying the class of appeals pending in the Supreme Court which will now transfer to the Court of Appeal.  As a result of the direction, 327 appeals certified as ready for hearing will be retained by the Supreme Court, and 258 appeals certified as ready for hearing will transfer to the Court of Appeal.

Rules regulating the procedure in respect of appeals to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court were also published, together with a number of new Practice Directions relevant to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. On Thursday 30 October, the nine judges appointed by the President as judges of the Court of Appeal made the formal declaration required by the Irish Constitution before the Supreme Court.

The new Court of Appeal judges are:

  • Mr Justice Sean Ryan (President-Designate of the Court)
  • Mr Justice Peter Kelly
  • Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan
  • Mr Justice Michael Peart
  • Mr Justice George Birmingham
  • Ms Justice Mary Irvine
  • Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan
  • Mr Justice Gerard Hogan
  • His Honour Judge Alan Mahon

It is understood that a further appointment to the Court of Appeal will be made in the coming weeks and eight new appointments will be made to the High Court to fill the vacancies arising.

As noted in our previous article, the Court of Appeal will have the jurisdiction which was previously vested in the Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeal and the Courts-Martial Appeal Court, the latter two courts having been abolished by the Court of Appeal Act 2014.  This effectively means that it will be the default court for all appeals from decisions of the High Court and its decision will, save in certain limited circumstances, be final.  It will be possible in exceptional circumstances (and with leave from the Supreme Court) to bypass the Court of Appeal and to bring a 'leapfrog appeal' directly to the Supreme Court.

This article contains a general summary of developments and is not a complete or definitive statement of the law. Specific legal advice should be obtained where appropriate.