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Lord Chief Justice of Ireland

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Four CourtsThe headquarters of the Irish judicial system since 1804. The Court of King's Bench was one of the original four courts that sat there.
The Four Courts
The headquarters of the Irish judicial system since 1804. The Court of King's Bench was one of the original four courts that sat there.

The Court of King's Bench (or Court of Queen's Bench during the reign of a Queen) was one of the senior courts of common law in Ireland. It was a mirror of the Court of King's Bench in England. The Lord Chief Justice was the most senior judge in the court, and the second most senior Irish judge under English rule and later when Ireland became part of the United Kingdom. Additionally, for a brief period between 1922 and 1924, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland was the most senior judge in the Irish Free State.

History of the position

The office was created during the Lordship of Ireland (1171–1536) and continued in existence under the Kingdom of Ireland (1536–1800) and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Prior to the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Ireland) 1877, the Lord Chief Justice presided over the Court of King's/Queen's Bench, and as such ranked foremost amongst the judges sitting at common law. After 1877, the Lord Chief Justice assumed the presidency of the Queen's Bench Division of the new High Court of Justice, which sat permanently in the Four Courts in Dublin.

Thomas Lefroy, later Lord Chief Justice of Ireland (LCJ 1852–1866), was used by Jane Austen as the model for her Pride and Prejudice character Mr. Darcy. Lefroy and Austen had had a romance in their youths. Other prominent Lord Chief Justices of Ireland include Lord Whiteside (LCJ 1866–1876), who as a Queen's Counsel had defended Irish nationalist leader Daniel O'Connell in court, Gerald FitzGerald, 3rd Earl of Desmond, Hugh de Lacy, Risteárd de Tiúit, John Doherty, Thomas Marlay, James Ley, Peter O'Brien, and James Henry Mussen Campbell, 1st Baron Glenavy (LCJ 1916–1918, later Chairman of Seanad Éireann and grandfather of the satirist Patrick Campbell). One Lord Chief Justice, Lord Kilwarden, was killed by a crowd during Robert Emmet's 1803 rebellion.

Abolition of the position

The abolition of the position of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland was originally envisaged in a draft of the Government of Ireland Bill 1920. The Bill originally proposed that the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland would become the Lord Chief Justice of Southern Ireland. However, the then incumbent, The Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas Molony, 1st Bt., vigorously lobbied for the right to continue to hold the title even after the Bill was passed. Ultimately, his arguments were at least in part accepted: The Act, in its transitional provisions, provided that while he would in effect be the first Lord Chief Justice of Southern Ireland, his title remained that of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, although this was a transitional provision and was not a right to be enjoyed by his successors.[1]

Subsequently, the highest ranking judicial posting in Ireland, that of Lord Chancellor of Ireland, was abolished in December 1922.[2] This left the office of the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland as the most senior judge in the Irish Free State but not for very long. The Constitution of the Irish Free State adopted in December 1922 clearly envisaged the early establishment of new courts for the nascent state and the abolition of the position of the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.[3] However, this only took place when the Courts of Justice Act 1924 was finally adopted. Under that Act, the position of the Chief Justice of the Irish Free State superseded the position of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland as the highest judicial office in the Irish Free State.[4]

In what became Northern Ireland, the position was superseded by the position of Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland.[5]

List of holders

Date Name Notes Left Office
1324-7 Nicholas Fastolf, knight (1st term)
1327-8 Henry de Hambury From Hanbury, Worcestershire
1328-30 Nicholas Fastolf, knight (2nd term)
1330-1 Elias de Asshebournham, knight (1st term)
1331-2 Peter Tilliol, knight
1332-3 Thomas Louth From Louth, Lincolnshire (1st term)
1333-4 Robert de Scardeburgh ("but probably did not act")
1334-7 Thomas Louth (2nd term)
1337 Elias de Asshebournham, knight (2nd term)
1337 Thomas Louth (3rd term)
1337-8 Elias de Asshebournham, knight (3rd term)
1338 Thomas Louth (4th term)
1338-41 Elias de Asshebournham (4th term)
1341-4 Thomas de Dent Patronymic derived from Dent, Yorkshire
1344-5 Robert de Scardeburgh From Scarborough, North Yorkshire (only substantive term)
1345-6 John le Hunt
1346 Henry de Motlowe, knight Possibly connected to Mobberley or Motburlege, Chesire
1346-51 John de Rednesse From Reedness, Yorkshire (1st term)
1351-4 Godfrey de Foljambe, knight
1354-6 John de Rednesse (2nd term)
1356 Richard de Wirkeley Prior of the Order of Hospitallers in Ireland - possibly connected to Wakefield, Yorkshire
1356-9 John de Rednesse (3rd term)
1359 William le Petit
1359-61 John de Rednesse (4th term)
1361-3 William de Notton, knight From Notton, Yorkshire
1363-5 Richard White
1365-7 Thomas de la Dale, knight
1367-70 John Keppock, or Keppok (1st term)
1370-2 William de Skipwith, knight Family originally from Skipwith, Yorkshire
1372–82 John Keppock, or Keppok (2nd term)
1382 Sir Thomas Mortimer, knight Family originally from Mortemer, Seine-Maritime, Normandy
1384 John de Sotheron
1385 John Penros
1386 Edmund de Clay From the common pleas[6][7]
1388, 10 July Richard Plunkett
1388, 23 September Peter Rowe (1st term)
1395 William Hankford From Hankford in the parish of Bulkworthy, Devon
1396 William Tynbegh, clerk Family originally from Tenby, Pembrokeshire
1397 Peter Rowe (2nd term)
1397 Stephen de Bray (1st term) From the common pleas - family possibly from Bray, County Wicklow
1404 Richard Rede
1406 Stephen de Bray (2nd term)
1426 Henry Fortescue
1429 Stephen de Bray (3rd term)
1435 Christopher Bernevall, or Barnewall 2nd justice
1437 William Boys
1437 Christopher Bernevall, or Barnewall (2nd term)
1446 Richard Bye
1447 Robert Plunket
1447 Sir James Alleyn
1457 Nicholas Barnewall (1st term)
1461 Sir Thomas Fitz-Christopher Plunket (1st term)
1461 Nicholas Barnewall (2nd term)
1463 (or before) Sir Thomas Fitz-Christopher Plunket (2nd term)
1468 John Chevir
1474 Philip Bermingham (d 1490, buried St. Mary's Abbey, Dublin)
1490 Thomas Cusacke
1494 Thomas Bowring
1496 John Topcliffe From the Exchequer
1513 Patrick Bermingham
1521 Patrick Bermingham By a new patent
1533 Sir Bartholomew Dillon, knight 2nd justice, from the Exchequer Died same year[8]
1534 Patrick Finglas From the Exchequer
1535 Sir Gerald Aylmer From the Exchequer[9]
1559 John Plunket
1562 John Plunket By a new patent
1583 James Dowdall
1586 Robert Gardiner Serjeant-at-law in England
1604 Sir James Ley Afterwards Earl of Marlborough: resigned
1608 Sir Humphrey Winch, knight Chief Baron; from the Exchequer Made a Justice of the Common Pleas of England
1612 Sir John Denham, knight Chief Baron, from the Exchequer
1617 Sir William Jones, knight Serjeant-at-law
1620 Sir George Shurley, or Shirley, knight Serjeant-at-law (d.1647)[10]
1655 Richard Pepys Under the Protectorate – died 2 January 1659
1659 John Santhey 19 Jan pro tem on Pepys' death[11]
1659 William Basill Attorney general; 24 Jan
1660 Sir James Barry, knight Afterwards Lord Santry
1673 Sir John Povey, knight From the Exchequer
1679 Sir Robert Booth, knight Died the next year
1680 Sir William Davys, knight Prime serjeant
1687 Thomas Nugent Removed
1690 Sir Richard Reynell, 1st Baronet Dismissed
1695 Sir Richard Pyne Chief Justice of the Common Pleas
1709 Alan Brodrick Removed
1711 Sir Richard Cox, knight and baronet Removed
1714 William Whitshed Removed to the Common Pleas
1727 John Rogerson Previously attorney general Died in office 1741
1741 Thomas Marlay Previously Chief Baron of the Exchequer Retired 1751
1751 St George Caulfeild Previously attorney general Retired 1760
1760 Warden Flood Previously attorney general Died in office 1764
1764 John Gore, later Lord Annaly Previously solicitor general; 24 Aug Died in office 1784
1784 John Scott Previously Prime serjeant; Created Lord Earlsfort, afterwards Viscount and Earl of Clonmell; 29 Apr Died in office 1798
1798 Arthur Wolfe, Lord Kilwarden Previously attorney-general; 13 June Murdered 23 July 1803
1803 William Downes Previously a judge of the Court of King's Bench; afterward 1st Baron Downes; 12 Sep Retired 1822
1822 Charles Kendal Bushe Previously solicitor general from 1805; 14 Feb Retired 1841
1841 Edward Pennefather Previously solicitor general; 10 Nov Retired 1846
1846 Francis Blackburne Previously Master of the Rolls; 21 Jan Became Lord Chancellor 1852
1852 Thomas Langlois Lefroy Previously a Baron of the Exchequer Retired 1866
1866 James Whiteside Former attorney-general Died in office 1876
1877 George Augustus Chichester May Previously attorney-general Retired 1887
1887 Michael Morris Previously Chief Justice of the Common Pleas Became Lord of Appeal in Ordinary 1889
1889 Peter O'Brien Previously attorney-general Retired 1913
1913 Richard Robert Cherry Previously a Lord Justice of Appeal Retired 1916
1916 James Henry Mussen Campbell Previously attorney-general Became Lord Chancellor 1918
1918 Thomas Molony Previously a Lord Justice of Appeal Position abolished


  • List from Liber Munerum Publicorum Hiberniae, by Rowley Lascelles, copied in Haydn's Book of Dignities
  • Names from 1852 onwards from The Oxford Companion to Law, ed David M. Walker, 1980
  • Francis Elrington Ball The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 2 Vols (John Murray London 1926)


  1. ^ For a thorough account, see: W.N. Osborough, Studies in Irish Legal History, Four Courts Press 1999, pp 318–326.
  2. ^ Schedule II, Part II, Irish Free State Consequential Provisions Act 1922, a United Kingdom statute.
  3. ^ Article 75, Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act 1922.
  4. ^ Section 5, Courts of Justice Act 1924.
  5. ^
  6. ^ For holders of the office of Lord Chief Justice, the period 1383–86 seems to have been one of great confusion, and it is not clear whether all those nominated actually took up the position – see Ball The Judges in Ireland .
  7. ^ Haydn's Book of Dignities says that "John de Shriggeley, from the Exchequer" served at this point, but Elrington Ball's 'Judges in Ireland', P157 does not mention him
  8. ^ Date from Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 John Murray London 1926, P191 – although Haydn's Book of Dignities says that he took office in 1532
  9. ^ Date from Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 John Murray London 1926, P156 – although Haydn's Book of Dignities says that he took office in 1546
  10. ^ date from Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 (London 1926), p.328 – although Haydn's Book of Dignities says that he took office in 1619
  11. ^ Robert Dunlop, 'Ireland under the Commonwealth' Vol 2, P 470n

Further reading

  • Daire Hogan, R.R. Cherry, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, 1914–16

External links

This page was last edited on 2 September 2021, at 10:27
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