The waiting times for appeals to be heard before the Supreme Court have been slashed from five years to one year despite appeals being on the rise.
The figures are contained in the first ever annual report of the country’s highest court which was published as the Supreme Court sat in Galway for the first time. The sitting was in NUIG and was the first time it has sat outside of a courthouse since 1932.
The report revealed that there were 157 applications for leave to appeal in 2018 — an increase of 10% on the previous year. This increase comes on top of an 18% increase in applications in 2017.
Last year, the court disposed of 128 appeals and delivered 91 reserved judgments. Of the appeals disposed of, 67 were appeals brought under the reformed jurisdiction of the court which has operated since the establishment of the Court of Appeal.
The report said that the Supreme Court has now effectively disposed of its backlog of legacy cases.
In Galway the court will not only hear cases, but will have professional development seminars with the legal profession and a host of interactions and seminars with students of the School of Law in NUI Galway.
The workings of the court have been televised on a number of occasions in recent months. Judges will also take part in a number of seminars for NUIG students and academics.
Chief Justice Frank Clarke said the events were part of a drive by the court to bring about an increased visibility of the highest court, along with transparency regarding its work, and an understanding of its role.
“In publishing this inaugural report, it is hoped that the work of the Supreme Court, both inside the courtroom and outside, and both in Ireland and abroad, can be highlighted. I hope that the general public can gain a greater understanding of what it is that the Supreme Court actually does and its role in upholding the Constitution and the law,” he said.
Chief Justice Clarke said the work of the Supreme Court has evolved significantly in recent years.
“The establishment of the Court of Appeal in 2014 has changed the structure of the caseload of the court. Each member of the court is also engaged in extra-judicial work, outside of hearing appeals and delivering judgments. The Supreme Court of Ireland is a member of no less than 10 European and International networks and participation in each of these networks requires extensive judicial resources,” he said.
This international work has increased as a result of Ireland becoming the major Common Law country in the EU, as the UK prepared to leave.
Also for the first time the court is publishing in the report summaries and notes of the major judgments it gave throughout the year to allow for ready reference and access to the jurisprudence of the court each year.
The report also highlights that it is now possible to file appeals and follow up work and submissions online to the Supreme Court for the first time.
This e-court project is now online and promises ease of access and efficiencies for practitioners.