In our news post around this time last year here we reported that the Irish Government was to hold a Constitutional Referendum with the goal of amending the Constitution to enable a new Court of Appeal interposed between the High Court and the Supreme Court to be established.
The referendum succeeded in October 2013 with 65.2% of the electorate voting in favour of the new Court. Recently, the Court of Appeal Act 2014 was passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas and was signed into law at the end of last week.
As well as streamlining the Irish structure and bringing it more into line with other common law European court systems, the new Court of Appeal should reduce the backlog at the Irish Supreme Court. For example, cases already pending at the Supreme Court may be remitted to the Court of Appeal and thus heard more quickly.
An appeal from the new Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court will only be possible if there is a need for final determination of a matter of general public importance or in the interests of justice. In certain circumstances (meeting threshold criteria) in civil or criminal cases it will be possible to appeal directly from the High Court to the Supreme Court.
The new Court of Appeal is expected to be open for business in the autumn. A President and nine ordinary judges (who will be allowed to sit on other courts) will serve the Court.
Isabel Meenan & Yvonne McKeown