Lord Chief Justice of Ireland

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The Four Courts
The headquarters of the Irish judicial system since 1804. The Court of King's Bench was one of the original four courts that sat there.

The Court of King's Bench (or Court of Queen's Bench during the reign of a Queen) was one of the senior courts of common law in Ireland. It was a mirror of the Court of King's Bench in England. The Lord Chief Justice was the most senior judge in the court, and the second most senior Irish judge under English rule and later when Ireland became part of the United Kingdom. Additionally, for a brief period between 1922 and 1924, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland was the most senior judge in the Irish Free State.

History of the position[edit]

The Annals of the Four Masters dates the appointment of a John, Bishop of Norwich, as Lord Justice over Ireland to 1208. The office under its full title was created during the Lordship of Ireland (1171–1536) and continued in existence under the Kingdom of Ireland (1536–1800) and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Prior to the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Ireland) 1877, the Lord Chief Justice presided over the Court of King's/Queen's Bench, and as such ranked foremost amongst the judges sitting at common law. After 1877, the Lord Chief Justice assumed the presidency of the Queen's Bench Division of the new High Court of Justice, which sat permanently in the Four Courts in Dublin.

Thomas Lefroy, later Lord Chief Justice of Ireland (LCJ 1852–1866), was used by Jane Austen as the model for her Pride and Prejudice character Mr. Darcy. Lefroy and Austen had had a romance in their youths. Other prominent Lord Chief Justices of Ireland include Lord Whiteside (LCJ 1866–1876), who as a Queen's Counsel had defended Irish nationalist leader Daniel O'Connell in court, Gearoid Iarla Fitzgerald, (the Third Earl of Desmond), Hugh de Lacy, Risteárd de Tiúit, John Dougherty and Thomas Marlay, James Ley and Peter O'Bryan. James Henry Mussen Campbell, 1st Baron Glenavy (LCJ 1916–1918, later Chairman of Seanad Éireann and grandfather of the satirist Patrick Campbell). One Lord Chief Justice, Lord Kilwarden, was killed by a crowd during Robert Emmet's 1803 rebellion.

Abolition of the position[edit]

The abolition of the position of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland was originally envisaged in a draft of the Government of Ireland Bill 1920. The Bill originally proposed that the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland would become the Lord Chief Justice of Southern Ireland. However, the then incumbent, The Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas Molony, 1st Bt., vigorously lobbied for the right to continue to hold the title even after the Bill was passed. Ultimately, his arguments were at least in part accepted: The Act, in its transitional provisions, provided that while he would in effect be the first Lord Chief Justice of Southern Ireland, his title remained that of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, although this was a transitional provision and was not a right to be enjoyed by his successors.[1]

Subsequently, the highest ranking judicial posting in Ireland, that of Lord Chancellor of Ireland, was abolished in December 1922.[2] This left the office of the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland as the most senior judge in the Irish Free State but not for very long. The Constitution of the Irish Free State adopted in December 1922 clearly envisaged the early establishment of new courts for the nascent state and the abolition of the position of the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.[3] However, this only took place when the Courts of Justice Act 1924 was finally adopted. Under that Act, the position of the Chief Justice of the Irish Free State superseded the position of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland as the highest judicial office in the Irish Free State.[4]

List of holders[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • List from Liber Munerum Publicorum Hiberniae, by Rowley Lascelles, copied in Haydn's Book of Dignities
  • Names from 1852 onwardsfrom The Oxford Companion to Law, ed David M. Walker, 1980
  • Francis Elrington Ball The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 2 Volumes John Murray London 1926

References[edit]

  1. ^ For a thorough account, see: W.N. Osborough, Studies in Irish Legal History, Four Courts Press 1999, pp 318–326.
  2. ^ Schedule II, Part II, Irish Free State Consequential Provisions Act 1922, a United Kingdom statute.
  3. ^ Article 75, Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act 1922.
  4. ^ Section 5, Courts of Justice Act 1924.
  5. ^ The Earldom of Ulster. Part III. Inquisitions Touching down and Newtownards (Continued) Author(s): Goddard H. OrpenReviewed work(s):Source: The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Sixth Series, Vol. 4, No. 1(Mar. 31, 1914), pp. 51-66
  6. ^ Cokayne, George Edward, Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct, or Dormant. Volume III. London: George Bell & Sons. 1890. p. 83 "In 1295 he was for some months Chief Gov. of Ireland as Lord Justice."
  7. ^ Webb, Alfred. A Compendium of Irish Biography. Dublin: 1878. "In 1295 he acted as Lord-Justice."
  8. ^  Thomas, Daniel Lleufer (1900). "Wogan, John". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography 62. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 287–8.  Wogan, "in 1295 was appointed chief justice of Ireland. Wogan arrived in Ireland on 18 Oct. 1295, and among his first acts he made a truce for two years between the Burkes and the Geraldines."
  9. ^ The struggle between Elias de Asshebournham and Thomas Louth for the office of Lord Chief Justice lasted for almost a decade, so there is great confusion as to which of them held the title at any given date
  10. ^ Sir Ralph Ufford
  11. ^ Gearóid Iarla FitzGerald (1335–1398)
  12. ^ Date from Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 John Murray London 1926, P191 – although Haydn's Book of Dignities says that he took office in 1532
  13. ^ Date from Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 John Murray London 1926, P156 – although Haydn's Book of Dignities says that he took office in 1546
  14. ^ Date from Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 John Murray London 1926, P 328 – although Haydn's Book of Dignities says that he took office in 1619

Additional reading[edit]

Daire Hogan, R.R. Cherry, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, 1914–16

External links[edit]