An action by retired judge Barry White, who claims he is being prevented from resuming practice as a barrister by an unconstitutional rule, has opened before the High Court.
Mr White, 71, who sat in the Central Criminal Court for more than a decade before his retirement in 2014, is challenging a Bar Council rule that prevents him practising in a court equal to or lower than the one he presided over. In his case, that means all courts below the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
Following his retirement, Mr White told the Bar Council of Ireland, the representative body of barristers in Ireland, in a letter of his wish to resume practice as a barrister due to “economic necessity”. The court heard that, during the national emergency following the economic crash, Mr White’s salary and pension were significantly reduced.
He held discussions with the Bar Council and minister for justice on his application for a waiver of the Bar Council rule so he could resume practice but this was not accepted.
John Rogers, counsel for Mr White, opening the case said that decision breaches Mr White’s constitutional rights, including to work and earn a livelihood, something which is “vital to him”.
Other grounds of challenge included the rule breaches the Constitution, is anti-competitive and disproportionate.
The Bar Council has no jurisdiction to impose conditions on judges returning to practise and the Minister has no power to enforce such restrictions, it is also argued.
Arising out of the Bar Council’s decision, the Minister for Justice has decided Mr White was not regulated and refused to admit him to the criminal legal scheme panel.
Mr White’s application is opposed by the defendants. In its statement of opposition denying Mr White’s claims the Bar Council, represented by Michael Collins, argued the action should be dismissed.
Mr White, when accepting the nomination to the bench in 2002, was aware of the rule he now challenges, the Bar Council submitted. The rule, contained in the Bar Council’s Code of Conduct, has legitimate and reasonable objectives.
These are designed to safeguard the integrity, independence, and the administration of justice. The rule, it was further submitted does not constitute a disproportionate interference with Mr White’s rights, including his right to earn a livelihood.
The High Court case which is before Mr Justice Max Barrett, is expected to last for several days.
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