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Five new High Court judges nominated as ‘tsunami of litigation’ expected

Five senior counsel have been nominated by the Government to be judges of the High Court.

he move comes after legislation was passed earlier this year allowing for the number of judges sitting on the court to be increased from 37 to 42 amid warnings of a tsunami of litigation as the Covid-19 crisis eases.

The barristers nominated include three women, criminal law practitioner Caroline Biggs SC, employment law specialist Marguerite Bolger SC and medical negligence lawyer Emily Egan SC.

Also nominated were environmental and planning law specialist David Holland SC and prominent defamation lawyer Cian Ferriter SC.

Solicitor Patricia Cronin was nominated to the District Court, while District Court judge Alan Mitchell was nominated to the Special Criminal Court.

The five new High Court nominations will be welcomed by the judiciary but fall short of demands made earlier this year by the president of that court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine.

She requested between 15 and 20 additional judges to deal with what she predicts will be “a tsunami” of litigation once the Covid-19 crisis eases.

In an interview with the Parchment magazine in July, she said she was left “sort of speechless” by the decision to increase the number of High Court judges by just five.

Ms Justice Irvine said due to a shortage of judges, important planning cases would soon take up to a year to be heard, while the fast track Commercial Court list was “groaning” with the number of matters awaiting trial dates.

“We are in a desperate scenario. We needed 12 judges three years ago. Now we need at least 17,” she said.

However, acting Justice Minister Heather Humphreys subsequently defended the size of the increase, saying it would be the largest in recent memory.

Ms Humphreys said each High Court judge costs €370,000-a-year when salary, allowances and support staff are taken into account, and described the decision to allow for five additional judges as “a very significant investment by the State”.

She also said the Government was committed to ensuring the courts are adequately resourced to allow for the efficient administration of justice.

An ordinary judge of the High Court earns between €196,874 and €218,748 depending on when they were appointed and how long they have served.

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