Judge White case told of admin errors

Twenty-two names were on the criminal legal aid panel when officials examined it which should not have been there, the High Court heard yesterday.

The 22 included four recently appointed judges, a person who was deceased, an unknown person, and 14 who had been excluded from the Law Library, a senior counsel told the court.

State counsel Eoghan Fitzsimons was making a submission in the continuing action by retired High Court Judge Barry White who is challenging the Bar Council rule preventing retired judges resuming practice in a court equal to or lower than the one they presided over. In Mr White’s case that means all courts below the Court of Apepal and the Supreme Court.

Mr Fitzsimons said the administrative error or oversight was discovered thanks to Mr White and new procedures were now in place.

Mr White, aged 71, who sat at the Central Criminal Court for a number of years retired in 2014. Following his retirement from the bench, Mr White informed the Bar Council of his wish to resume practice as a barrister due to “economic necessity”.

He held discussions with the Bar Council and minister for justice on his application for a waiver of the Bar Council rule so he can resume practice but this was not accepted. He then initiated legal proceedings. His side contends the Bar Council has no jurisdiction to impose conditions on judges returning to practice and the minister has no power to enforce such restrictions.

Arising out of the Bar Council’s decision, the minister for justice decided Mr White was not regulated and refused to admit him to the criminal legal scheme panel.

Mr White offered undertakings to address certain concerns of the Bar Council, including not to act in cases which he had presided over or involving challenges to his judgments and not to use any confidential information obtained as a judge.

Yesterday, Paul Sreenan SC for the Bar Council said it had been submitted that a judge of the criminal court is in a different situation but counsel said “we are talking about perception”. The right to a livelihood he said is a narrow right and it did not mean a person could have access property of a third party like the Law Library.

Counsel said Mr White had a livedihood as a barrister and a judge and then a pension.

“Nothing has been done to render that livelihood inadequate,” Counsel contended.

Maurice Collins SC submitted Mr White knew the code of conduct and knew it entailed certain consequences. “There is no such thing as a constitutional right to be a member of the Law Library,” said counsel.

The case continues today.


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