Reform of the legal system

It was reported recently in the Irish Times that a judicial committee was recommending the establishment of a new court of civil appeal in Ireland. This is a welcome recommendation, as its implementation would help end the severe congestion of the legal system, leading to long delays in appeals. 

There is probably a need for a more root-and-branch analysis of our legal system. We have inherited a common law framework which, in many ways, has served the country well, and certainly there have been many fine legal practitioners and judges who have helped ensure that we have a system that recognises and protects the main ingredients necessary for both a democratic state, a fair society and a functioning economy. However, it is a legal system that on the whole was developed in the 19th century, and aspects of it need serious overhaul.

It is arguable, for example, that the time has come for a professional judiciary – rather than one where judges are appointed to the bench after a long career in practice. We need a system of legal training that makes lawyers more familiar not just with the law, but the areas of life and work that they will have to adjudicate on. We need to organise the legal profession in such a way as to cut out restrictive practices. We need a courts system that is organisationally resourced sufficiently to dispense justice speedily. And we need to ensure a more realistic pricing of the service.

We also need to develop a way of ensuring that cases that ought to be resolved by other means – generally alternative dispute resolution – do actually go that way. And we need to have an understanding of legal processes amongst the general population that discourages people from unnecessary litigation, the costs of which are generally borne by the rest of society.

These are big objectives. But the time has come to discuss them, not perhaps in a piecemeal way (which is how our law reform process has tended to go), but in an overall analysis of the system and its problems.

Explore posts in the same categories: law, society

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