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Lord Chief Justice of Ireland

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Lord Chief Justice of Ireland

The Court of King's Bench (or Court of Queen's Bench during the reign of a Queen) was one of the senior courts of common law in Ireland. It was a mirror of the Court of King's Bench in England. The Lord Chief Justice was the most senior judge in the court, and the second most senior Irish judge under English rule and later when Ireland became part of the United Kingdom. Additionally, for a brief period between 1922 and 1924, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland was the most senior judge in the Irish Free State.


History of the position

The office was created during the Lordship of Ireland (1171–1536) and continued in existence under the Kingdom of Ireland (1536–1800) and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Prior to the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Ireland) 1877, the Lord Chief Justice presided over the Court of King's/Queen's Bench, and as such ranked foremost amongst the judges sitting at common law. After 1877, the Lord Chief Justice assumed the presidency of the Queen's Bench Division of the new High Court of Justice, which sat permanently in the Four Courts in Dublin.

Thomas Lefroy, later Lord Chief Justice of Ireland (LCJ 1852–1866), was used by Jane Austen as the model for her Pride and Prejudice character Mr. Darcy. Lefroy and Austen had had a romance in their youths. Other prominent Lord Chief Justices of Ireland include Lord Whiteside (LCJ 1866–1876), who as a Queen's Counsel had defended Irish nationalist leader Daniel O'Connell in court, Gerald FitzGerald, 3rd Earl of Desmond, Hugh de Lacy, Risteárd de Tiúit, John Dougherty and Thomas Marlay, James Ley and Peter O'Brien. James Henry Mussen Campbell, 1st Baron Glenavy (LCJ 1916–1918, later Chairman of Seanad Éireann and grandfather of the satirist Patrick Campbell). One Lord Chief Justice, Lord Kilwarden, was killed by a crowd during Robert Emmet's 1803 rebellion.

Abolition of the position

The abolition of the position of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland was originally envisaged in a draft of the Government of Ireland Bill 1920. The Bill originally proposed that the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland would become the Lord Chief Justice of Southern Ireland. However, the then incumbent, The Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas Molony, 1st Bt., vigorously lobbied for the right to continue to hold the title even after the Bill was passed. Ultimately, his arguments were at least in part accepted: The Act, in its transitional provisions, provided that while he would in effect be the first Lord Chief Justice of Southern Ireland, his title remained that of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, although this was a transitional provision and was not a right to be enjoyed by his successors.

Subsequently, the highest ranking judicial posting in Ireland, that of Lord Chancellor of Ireland, was abolished in December 1922. This left the office of the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland as the most senior judge in the Irish Free State but not for very long. The Constitution of the Irish Free State adopted in December 1922 clearly envisaged the early establishment of new courts for the nascent state and the abolition of the position of the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. However, this only took place when the Courts of Justice Act 1924 was finally adopted. Under that Act, the position of the Chief Justice of the Irish Free State superseded the position of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland as the highest judicial office in the Irish Free State.

List of holders

  • 1404 Richard Rede
  • 1406 Stephen de Bray, second term
  • 1426 Henry Fortescue
  • 1429 Stephen de Bray, third term
  • 1435 Christopher Bernevall, or Barnewall, 2nd justice
  • 1437 William Boys
  • 1437 Christopher Bernevall, or Barnewall, second term
  • 1446 Richard Bye
  • 1447 Robert Plunket
  • 1447 James Alleyn
  • 1457 Nicholas Barnewall
  • 1461 Sir Thomas Fitz-Christopher Plunket
  • 1461 Nicholas Barnewall
  • 1463 Sir Thomas Fitz-Christopher Plunket
  • 1468 John Chevir
  • 1474 Philip Bermingham (d 1490, buried St. Mary's Abbey, Dublin)
  • 1490 Thomas Cusacke
  • 1494 Thomas Bowring
  • 1496 John Topcliffe, from the Exchequer
  • 1513 Patrick Bermingham
  • 1521 Patrick Bermingham by a new patent
  • 1533 Sir Bartholomew Dillon, knt; 2nd justice, from the Exchequer -died same year
  • 1534 Patrick Finglas, from the Exchequer
  • 1535 Sir Gerald Aylmer, from the Exchequer
  • 1549 Sir Francis Bryan
  • 1559 John Plunket
  • 1562 John Plunket, by a new patent
  • 1583 James Dowdall
  • 1586 Robert Gardiner, sergeant-at-law in England
  • 1604 Sir James Ley, afterwards Earl of Marlborough: resigned
  • 1608 Sir Humphrey Winch, knt, chief baron; from the exchequer; made a justice of the common pleas of England
  • 1612 Sir John Denham, knt; chief baron, from the Exchequer
  • 1617 Sir William Jones, knt; sergeant-at-law
  • 1620 Sir George Shurley, or Shirley, knt; serjeant-at-law (d.1647)
  • 1655 Richard Pepys, under the Protectorate – died 2 January 1659
  • 1659 John Santhey, 19 Jan pro tem on Pepys' death
  • 1659 William Basill, attorney general; 24 Jan
  • 1660 Sir James Barry, knt; afterwards Lord Santry
  • 1673 Sir John Povey, knt; from the Exchequer
  • 1679 Sir Robert Booth, knt; died the next year
  • 1680 Sir William Davys, knt; prime serjeant
  • 1687 Thomas Nugent; removed
  • 1690 Sir Richard Reynell, 1st Baronet; dismissed.
  • 1695 Sir Richard Pyne, chief justice of the common pleas
  • 1709 Alan Brodrick; removed
  • 1711 Sir Richard Cox, knt and bart; removed
  • 1714 William Whitshed; removed to the common pleas
  • 1727 John Rogerson, (previously attorney general)
  • 1741 Thomas Marlay; from the Exchequer; resigned
  • 1751 St George Caulfeild, (previously attorney general); resigned
  • 1760 Warden Flood, (previously attorney general)
  • 1764 John Gore, later Lord Annaly, (previously solicitor general); 24 Aug
  • 1784 John Scott, created Lord Earlsfort, afterwards Viscount and Earl of Clonmell; 29 Apr
  • 1798 Arthur Wolfe, Lord Kilwarden; 13 June; murdered 23 July 1803
  • 1803 William Downes afterward 1st Baron Downes; 12 Sep
  • 1822 Charles Kendal Bushe (previously solicitor general from 1805), 14 Feb
  • 1841 Edward Pennefather (previously solicitor general) 10 Nov
  • 1846 Francis Blackburne (previously Master of the Rolls) 21 Jan
  • 1852 Thomas Langlois Lefroy
  • 1866 James Whiteside
  • 1877 George Augustus Chichester May
  • 1887 Michael Morris, Chief Justice of Ireland, (became Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 1889)
  • 1889 Peter O'Brien
  • 1913 Richard Robert Cherry
  • 1916 James Henry Mussen Campbell
  • 1918 Thomas Molony
  • Additional reading

  • Daire Hogan, R.R. Cherry, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, 1914–16
  • References

    Lord Chief Justice of Ireland Wikipedia

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