Committee for Studies Institute
The basic law of the State is the Constitution of Ireland adopted by referendum in 1937 replacing the Constitution of the Irish Free State (1922). The Constitution is the canopy under which justice is administered and legal rights enforced in Courts established by law.
The Constitution delineates a separation of powers among the organs of State, executive, legislative and judicial. It guarantees the judicial protection of fundamental rights and also due process in the administrative and judicial spheres. It may be invoked by individuals to challenge the constitutionality of laws passed by the Oireachtas (parliament) and to seek redress for breach of constitutional rights. Subject to the Constitution the legal system is based on the common law tradition.
As a Member State of the European Union, European community law forms part of the law of the State. There are several tiers of Courts. The District Court is a Court of summary jurisdiction for minor criminal offences and for smaller civil claims. The Circuit Court has jurisdiction to try most criminal offences (only the most serious being reserved for the Central Criminal Court which exercises criminal jurisdiction of the High Court). The Circuit Court deals with civil claims up to the amount of 38,000 euros. The Special Criminal Court, supplementary to the ordinary Courts, tries certain offences where specified public order considerations apply. The Special Criminal Court is presided over by three judges. Other than the absence of a jury, the normal rules of law apply.
The High Court and the Supreme Court constitute the Superior Courts established by the Constitution. The High Court has original jurisdiction in all matters civil or criminal. It has exclusive original jurisdiction in proceedings brought to question the validity of any law having regard to the provisions of the Constitution. The Court of Criminal Appeal, established by statute, exercises appellate jurisdiction in respect of criminal cases tried in the Circuit Court, the Central Criminal Court and the Special Criminal Court.
The Supreme Court is the Court of final instance. It has original jurisdiction only in cases where the President refers to it a Bill (law which has been passed by both houses of the Oireachtas (Parliament) but not yet signed into law by the President) for a decision on whether the Bill or any specified provision is repugnant to the Constitution. There are eight members of the Supreme Court and, the President of the High Court is an ex officio member of the Supreme Court. The Court usually sits as a Court of five judges or three judges.
The Judicial Studies Institute, now known as the Committee for Judicial Studies was set up in 1996 to provide for the ongoing education of the Judiciary. This is achieved by preparing and organizing seminars and conferences for the further and continuing education of the Judges. The Committee also concerns itself with giving assistance and guidance to newly appointed Judges by issuing Bench Books. The Committee for Judicial Studies Journal is a learned legal publication aimed at the Irish judiciary. It is produced under the aegis of the Committee for Judicial Studies. The primary purpose of the Journal is to provide Irish judges with information and opinions that are relevant and useful to them in their work it also contains conference papers and articles on legal topics of current interest.
The Committee has two full-time administration staff that also have other administrative responsibilities including the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board.