Séamus Woulfe is not listed for any Supreme Court hearing up to early March

Séamus Woulfe is not listed for any Supreme Court hearing up to early March

The Supreme Court judge Mr Justice Séamus Woulfe is not yet listed for a hearing of the court up to and including the beginning of March.

A list of the next tranche of cases to be heard by the court was published on December 22nd, and includes cases to be heard up to March 4th, and the judges who have been assigned to hear the cases.

Mr Justice Woulfe was appointed a member of the court in July but was soon thereafter embroiled in the so-called Golfgate controversy following his attendance at an Oireachtas Golf Society dinner despite coronavirus public health guidance at the time, which resulted in an extraordinary exchange of correspondence between Mr Justice Woulfe and the Chief Justice, Mr Justice Frank Clarke, who among other functions assigns judges to hear cases.

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In the correspondence, which has been published, the Chief Justice expressed his personal view that Mr Justice Woulfe should resign from the court.

However, in a letter to the Chief Justice dated November 9th, Mr Justice Woulfe said he did not consider it in any way appropriate that he should resign.

He also noted that he had been told that he would not be assigned to sit to hear any cases in the Supreme Court “until February 2021”.

Mr Justice Woulfe is not listed as a judge for the 10 cases that are to be heard between January 11th and March 4th, as per the latest list for the court.

As well as hearing cases, judges of the Supreme Court work on the delivery of rulings, as well as considering applications for appeals to be heard by the court.

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The latter work is done in private, and would not be mentioned on the published list.

Mr Justice Woulfe has not as yet sat in on any hearings so cannot work on the delivery of any rulings.

Prior role

Mr Justice Woulfe was appointed a member of the court after having worked as attorney general, and so may not be able to sit in on cases where the issues in dispute include matters linked to this former role.

In the November correspondence, the two members of the Supreme Court discussed how Mr Justice Woulfe was willing to forego his salary for three months, or give it to charity, as part of an informal process for resolving the Golfgate controversy.

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In a letter to Mr Justice Woulfe on November 5th, the Chief Justice reviewed a series of matters linked to the golf society dinner incident, which he said had created controversy for the court.

“It is my view, and the unanimous view of all of the members of the court (including the ex-officio members), that the cumulative effect of all of these matters has been to cause a very significant and irreparable damage both to the court and to the relationship within the court which is essential to the proper functioning of a collegiate court.

“It is not part of my role to ask, let alone tell, you to resign. Resignation is and can only be for the judge him or herself.”

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