The Government has initiated legislation to increase the number of Court of Appeal judges to 16, i.e. a President and 15 ordinary judges. The purpose of the Courts (Establishment and Constitution) (Amendment) Bill 2019 is to reduce the time it currently takes for a case to heard before the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal was established on 28 October 2014 following a referendum. A key policy objective underpinning the establishment of the Court of Appeal was to alleviate the backlog in cases before the Supreme Court, with average waiting times of more than 4 years for cases to be heard.
Civil Court of Appeal cases can now take up to an average of 2 years to be heard, and have become a significant impediment to an efficient appeal process and the effective administration of justice.
The President of the Court of Appeal has said that the addition of 6 judges would allow for three divisions of the Court of Appeal:
- Article 64 cases remitted from the Supreme Court; and
- Civil cases, with the civil division frequently sitting in two courts simultaneously.
The Bill has the support of the three largest political parties in the Oireachtas, and is currently before the Select Committee on Justice and Equality.