Court of Exchequer (Ireland)
The Court of Exchequer (Ireland) was one of the senior courts of common law in Ireland. It was the mirror image of the equivalent court in England. It was one of the four courts which gave their name to the building still called the Four Courts in Dublin.
According to Elrington Ball the Irish Court of Exchequer was functioning before 1300, and by 1310 it was staffed by the Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer and at least one associate Baron of the Exchequer. The early barons were not necessarily trained lawyers, and in 1400 complaints were made about their lack of learning; in 1442 it was suggested that the workings of Government would be improved if the Chief Baron was a properly trained lawyer. Later in the century the Court moved briefly to Carlow, which was then close to the centre of the Pale, (that part of Ireland which was under secure English rule), but local disturbances soon brought it back to Dublin.
Although its workload was traditionally less heavy than that of the Court of King's Bench (Ireland), it became notorious for slowness and inefficiency; an eighteenth-century lawyer spoke of the Court being in a state of "confusion and disorganisation almost past remedy". Due to its inefficiency, it lost a good deal of business to other courts, especially Chancery in the course of the eighteenth century. By the mid nineteenth century, however, it had overtaken the Court of King's Bench as the busiest common law court, and the death of Chief Baron Woulfe, in 1840, was widely blamed on his crushing workload (indeed Woulfe, who was in poor health, had been warned that the job would kill him).
On the passing of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Ireland) 1877, the Court of Exchequer was merged with the other three high courts and became a division of the High Court of Justice of Ireland. In a further reorganisation in 1897 the Exchequer Division was abolished. The last Chief Baron, Christopher Palles, retained his rank until he retired in 1916, by which time his reputation was so high that, despite his advanced age, the Government only accepted his resignation with great reluctance.
- Ball, F. Elrington. The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921. London: John Murray, 1926
- Delaney, V.T.H. Christopher Palles. Alan Figgis and Co. 1960