Following a referendum in Ireland in October 2013, the Court of Appeal Act 2014 was introduced on 4 July 2014 and was passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas (Parliament) on 16 July 2014 and signed into law on 20 July 2014. The 2014 Act seeks to improve efficiency and speed up the hearing of appeals in civil cases. It marks the most significant revision of Irish Court structures in over 50 years. The new Court of Appeal is expected to open in autumn 2014.
Prior to this change, unlike most other European countries, the only Court for hearing appeals from the High Court was the Supreme Court. In recent years the backlog has risen to four years. Under the new regime, only cases which are of general public importance or because of the demands of the interests of justice, will be submitted to the Supreme Court, either directly (but only in very limited circumstances, “leapfrogging” the Court of Appeal) or by way of a further appeal from the Court of Appeal. All other cases will be heard first by the Court of Appeal.
All pending appeals are to be reviewed by the Supreme Court which will determine those to be referred to the Court of Appeal. Any party will also be entitled to apply to have a pending appeal to the Supreme Court referred to the Court of Appeal.
Mr Justice Sean Ryan was nominated as President of the Court of Appeal a few months ago.
The other Judges nominated on 23 July 2014 by the Cabinet are all experienced High Court Judges, namely Peter Kelly (Judge in charge of the Commercial List), Mary Finlay Geoghegan, George Birmingham, Mary Irvine, Gerard Hogan and Michael Peart (who, in 2002, became the first solicitor ever appointed as a Judge of the High Court).
The remaining three positions will be advertised through the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board.