A Child Centred Supreme Court?
Whatever the final wording, if the coming Children’s Right referendum passes it will mark a new phase in Irish Family law and Irish jurisprudence. Whatever the wording new and novel cases and legal arguments will heard, and old ideas will be questioned in this new light. In times like this the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, take on a central role.
It is with this in mind that I note with curiosity the news that the Hon. Mr. Justice John MacMenamin has been appointed by the government to the bench of the Supreme Court.
The Hon. Mr. Justice John MacMenamin previously presided over the Minors list in the High Court, which includes all special care applications. Justice MacMenamin has shown an interest in child law, special care, children’s rights and unmarried fathers, often contributing to seminars and publishing papers on these areas. Justice MacMenamin has show an awareness of the rights of the child, perhaps this is most infamously seen in his judgement in the High Court in the Baby Anne case. This judgement was of course over turned by what were then his superiors in the Supreme Court.
It is impossible to know how or if his judgements will be effected by his promotion, but I for one will watch with interest how this plays out.
Of parallel interest is the fact that in her judgement in the Baby Anne case, Supreme Court Justice Catherine McGuinness stated that given the law as it was she had to overturn the high court verdict, but did so reluctantly. Of course, with any referendum these restrictions may no longer apply.
It would foolish of me to make any serious predictions, but a constitutional amendment, a new judge, and an old one given new scope guarantee that things will at least be interesting.