Commissioner for Oaths - Complaints in Writing

SC 22 - Commissioner for Oaths – Complaints in Writing

Having regard to the opinion (“the Opinion”) expressed unanimously by three judges of the Supreme Court, having heard arguments in that regard from counsel on behalf of the Attorney General and counsel on behalf of the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland, it appears that there is an inherent jurisdiction vested in the Chief Justice to consider issues concerning the suitability of persons who have been appointed by the Chief Justice as Commissioners for Oaths to continue as such.

Recalling that the Opinion suggested that procedures should be set out to enable the fair consideration of such issues, I hereby issue the following Practice Direction.

1. Instigation of Inquiry

An inquiry into the continuing suitability of someone to be a Commissioner for Oaths may be commenced in one of two ways as follows:-

(a) A person may make a complaint in writing to the Chief Justice specifying the basis on which they consider that a person, duly appointed by the Chief Justice to be a Commissioner for Oaths, should no longer be considered suitable to retain that role; or

(b) Information may come to the attention of the Chief Justice which raises questions about such suitability.

2. In either case the Chief Justice will consider whether the matters disclosed raise questions concerning such suitability thus warranting a formal procedure. In the event that the Chief Justice is not so satisfied, the matter will come to an end and, in the case of a complaint, the complainant will be so notified. In the event that the Chief Justice is so satisfied then the following procedures will be followed.

3. The Process

3.1 The person whose suitability to continue as a Commissioner for Oaths has been questioned to an extent to which the Chief Justice is satisfied would warrant further consideration (“the Commissioner concerned”) will be notified in writing of all of the materials which were before the Chief Justice leading to the determination that further inquiry is warranted. The Commissioner concerned will be notified of a date, not less than ten days after the sending of such documentation, when the matter will be for mention before the Chief Justice. The Law Society of Ireland will be given notice of that for mention date and invited to be represented should it so wish. Where the issue arises out of a complaint, the person making that complaint will likewise be notified and invited to attend or be represented should they so wish. The Chief Justice may also give directions for the notification of any other person who, on the basis of the information then available, appears to the Chief Justice to potentially have information which might be relevant to the consideration of the issue as to whether the person should continue to be a Commissioner for Oaths.

3.2 On the for mention date the Chief Justice, having heard all parties attending, will give such directions concerning the filing of affidavit evidence or submissions as appeared to the Chief Justice to be necessary to enable a proper hearing of the matter to be conducted. The Chief Justice will also give directions as to the manner of substantive hearing required including the identity of the persons entitled to participate in such hearing.

3.3 The default position will be that the matter will be heard on affidavit evidence and submissions (both written and oral). However, where, in the opinion of the Chief Justice, it is necessary for the fair resolution of the question that issues of fact which are in contest require to be resolved, the Chief Justice will direct oral evidence and cross-examination concerning such issues of fact.

3.4 The Chief Justice will, after such hearing as may be required in accordance with this Practice Direction, issue a ruling determining whether or not the Commissioner concerned remains an appropriate person to act as a Commissioner for Oaths. In the event that the Chief Justice concludes that the Commissioner concerned is not such a fit person, the Chief Justice will exercise the inherent power identified in the Opinion to remove the Commissioner concerned from the list of such persons who are entitled to act as Commissioner for Oaths and may give such further ancillary directions as may be appropriate in the circumstances.

3.5 In addition, where the Chief Justice is not satisfied that it is appropriate to immediately remove the Commissioner concerned in the manner aforesaid, but where the Chief Justice has concerns relating to the conduct of the Commissioner concerned, the Chief Justice may suggest the imposition of conditions on the manner in which the Commissioner concerned should conduct their business as a condition of the Commissioner concerned continuing in office. Should the Commissioner concerned not be satisfied to comply with such conditions then the Chief Justice may conclude that it is not appropriate that the Commissioner concerned should continue as a Commissioner without such safeguards and may act accordingly.

3.6 The complaint in writing should be addressed to the Chief Justice and delivered to the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court, Four Courts, Inns Quay, Dublin 7. Any further documentation directed by the Chief Justice under the provisions of this Practice Direction should be lodged in that Office.

Frank Clarke
Chief Justice
22nd January, 2021

Link to Supreme Court Procedures page: Notary Public and Commissioner for Oaths

Supreme Court