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Woulfe meeting with Chief Justice postponed after medical report submitted

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The scheduled meeting on Thursday between Mr Justice Séamus Woulfe of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice, Frank Clarke has been postponed. It is the fourth time a proposed meeting between the two men has been postponed at Mr Justice Woulfe’s request.

The two were due to discuss the fallout from Mr Justice Woulfe’s attendance at the “Golfgate” dinner in Co Galway last August.

In a statement issued this afternoon on behalf of the the Chief Justice, he said he had received correspondence earlier on Thursday which enclosed a “cogent medical report to the effect that he [Mr Justice Woulfe] is not in a position to take part in the resolution process at this time”.

The Supreme Court has been engaged in an informal process to try and resolve the controversy caused by Mr Justice Woulfe’s attendance at the Clifden dinner.

Mr Justice Clarke said it was necessary to cancel Thursday’s meeting. A proposed meeting on Tuesday last had been postponed at Mr Justice Woulfe’s request. This is the fourth time a meeting has had to be postponed.

“The Chief Justice is committed to bringing the process to a conclusion as early as it is possible and appropriate to do so.”

On Tuesday, the Chief Justice had said that if Thursday’s meeting to discuss the informal resolution of the controversy did not go ahead, “he will make alternative arrangements to convey his final views on the process to Mr Justice Woulfe”.

The Supreme Court is believed to be using elements of the Judicial Council Act 2019 that have yet to be put in place, as a template for how to deal with the crisis caused by Mr Justice Woulfe’s attendance at the dinner.

The Act provides for the informal resolution of a complaint against a judge if the judge is agreeable, and a Judicial Conduct Committee that is envisaged by the act, agrees to the matter being resolved in this way.

The head of the court concerned can appoint no more than three of his or her colleagues to resolve the matter informally.

Where a complaint is resolved by informal means, a report to this effect is submitted to the envisaged Judicial Conduct Committee.

If a complaint has failed to be resolved by informal means, then a report to this effect is submitted to the committee, setting out the reasons why.

Under the provisions of the act that have not yet been put in place, a formal inquiry into a complaint can be referred to a panel of enquiry, which may hold a hearing that, in certain circumstances, could be held in public.

If a complaint is upheld, then a report is sent to the committee to that effect, and a judge may be issued with advice, recommended to attend a course or seek particular training, or be admonished.

As none of these provisions are as yet in place, they are not available for dealing with the current crisis.

Mr Justice Woulfe was appointed a Supreme Court judge in July, having previously held the position of Attorney General. He has yet to take part in a sitting of the court.

Confidence in the judge has been damaged by of his attendance at the Clifden dinner in the midst of a pandemic, but also by his comments as recorded in the transcript of his interview with former chief justice Susan Denham, who was asked to report to the Supreme Court as to whether Mr Justice Woulfe should have attended the so-called Golfgate dinner.

Her answer was no. But she also said it would be unjust and disproportionate to ask the judge to resign, and recommended an informal resolution of the matter.

She attached a transcript of her interview with the newly-appointed judge as an appendix to her report. When the appendix was published by the board of the Judicial Council on October 2nd, it dealt a further blow to confidence in Mr Justice Woulfe.

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