Susan Denham named first woman chief justice
THE GOVERNMENT has nominated Mrs Justice Susan Denham for appointment by the President as the next chief justice, making her the first woman and the first Protestant to hold the position.
She replaces Mr Justice John Murray, who retires on Friday. He will continue to be a member of the Supreme Court until 2014.
With the recent appointment of Máire Whelan SC as Attorney General, the appointment means the two most senior legal positions in the State are occupied by women.
Mrs Justice Denham is the daughter of former Irish Times editor Douglas Gageby. Educated in Alexandra College, Dublin, and Trinity College, where she studied legal science, the King’s Inns and Columbia University, New York, she was called to the Bar in 1971 and became a senior counsel in 1987.
As a barrister she practised on the midland circuit and in Dublin, where she specialised in judicial review cases. She was appointed to the High Court in 1991. In December 1992 she became the first woman appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court.
In the 1990s she chaired the working group on a courts commission which produced a series of reports leading to the establishment of the Courts Service in 1999.
She served on the board of the Courts Service from its inception and chaired its Family Law Development Committee. Currently she chairs ISIS, the steering committee established to plan for and provide a system of information on sentencing.
Mrs Justice Denham was also secretary of the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Ethics which, in 2000, presented a report advising the establishment of a judicial council.
She is the chairwoman of the Committee on Court Practice and Procedure which advises on the need for change in various areas of the operation of the courts.