Did some judges just threaten a coup?

Judicial independence cuts both ways.

Judicial independence cuts both ways.

The core arguments put forward by judges in their memorandum to government here on the question of judges pay are spurious and in one particular case, downright sinister. The judges suggest that an independent committee be tasked with setting judges pay. It’s an interesting idea, provided that no one on the committee have anything to do with being a judge, aspiring to be a judge, or being in anyway involved in the legal system. Think the the judges would regard some a composition as “appropriate”? I won’t hold my breath.

The report then points out that our highly paid judges are barred from doing nixers. This is an argument for what, exactly? That some judges can’t top up their pay? So what? Are they suggesting that that may make our judges more corruptible? Really? Well, if the authors know of Irish judges who have an income-based tipping point after which they’re open to brown envelopes, then we need to start hearing names, because there is no room in the Irish judiciary for corrupt judges. If that is not what they meant, then the point is irrelevant. Irish judges will remain clean no matter what we pay them.

The most sinister part reported in The Irish Times, and I accept, it may be out of context, is the following:

“Mere knowledge that the Oireachtas has the power to legislate to reduce salaries may be perceived, even if it is not so in fact, as having the potential either to pressurise judges on the one hand or, alternatively, make them more liable to view the other branches of Government with suspicion or even hostility.”

I’m sorry? View the other branches of government with “hostility”? Is that a threat? Are the judges suggesting that there are other judges who, if we reduce their salaries, may put aside legal reasoning and engage in judicial revenge against the government? Because there’s a phrase for that: It’s called a coup d’tat. If the authors of the report know of judges who will put aside legal reasoning to engage in such acts, the government should demand their names, and prepare impeachment papers, because they are no longerĀ  an independent judiciary. They are traitors, and should be treated according.

The question of judicial independence is in question here, but not of the government interfering in the judiciary. This is a question of judges getting involved in politics, and they’d want to be real careful about that.

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