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Sensation out of court! Circuit Court Judge called to task at Public Talk

category national | crime and justice | feature author Thursday April 28, 2005 17:02author by JW - Judicial Watch Report this post to the editors

Gives "interesting" views on jury system! Problem of unemployed and retired jurors raised.

From the newswire (our correspondents are everywhere)!:

April 27th 2005 (Indymedia.ie) Yesterday, Circuit Court Judge Carroll Moran was the guest speaker at a public talk hosted by the University of Limerick Law Society. Two local people with an interest in judicial standards heard about it and decided to attend. The judge gave a one hour talk on “A judge’s perspectives on Circuit Court Practices” in which he outlined his insightful views on the jury system. He was not comfortable with some of the questions at the end which related his own conduct while presiding over the trial of Mary Kelly (see previous indymedia.ie coverage).

judicial watch logo The talk began at 6pm in the Charles Parson's Theatre in the University. Most of the audience were either studying law or teaching it. There was brief introduction listing Judge Moran's career path from a solicitor in 1970, to being a barrister, and then a judge. After this the judge briefly outlined the different tiers of the courts system in Ireland: District Court, Circuit Court, High Court, Supreme Court.

He said that there was a culture of expediency in the Circuit Court, where a case could be heard in a week that might take months to argue in the High Court.

He then spoke about the different parties in the Supreme Court: solicitors; barristers; jurors; witnesses; and the judge.

Given the audience he had (mostly aspiring solicitors and barristers) his discussion of solicitors and barristers was limited to comparing and contrasting them as careers rather than their functions in court. He also told his audience that they “probably know more law than [he] does, as one forgets so much of it after graduation, but compensates for this with experience and practice.”

Judge Moran had some interesting things to say about jurors though! He described the Jury System as a slow, expensive system that evolved by accident. He also said that “the jury system is not something we would invent if we were starting from scratch today”. He disagreed with the view expressed by some that a Jury is somehow the “democracy on the ground” of the judicial system.

He explained how in earlier times jurors had to be householders, “people who were considered safe, and reasonably pro-establishment.” He said that now many such people will beg to be excused from jury duty because of work, children or holidays, and that “juries tend to be mostly made up of unemployed or retired people”.

Judge Moran went on to inform us that, unlike days of old, juries can no longer be punished by the judge for returning a verdict that the judge disagrees with (what he referred to as a “perverse judgement.' He outlined the case of Crown v William Penn (Quaker who founded the State of Pennsylvannia) where the Judge had the jury locked up for not agreeing with him. “Nowadays of course, if a jury acquits someone that the judge knows is guilty then we have to live with the perverse judgement.

He also cited the case of DPP vs. Mark Davis where the Judge directed the jury to find the defendant guilty. This was found to be unlawful by the Supreme Court.

In relation to the perception that a judge “seems to be able to [do] anything he likes” Judge Moran assured us that this was not true. We were told that a court room is “like a gold fish bowl, where the judge’s actions and words are seen by all, and if he makes a mistake or is incompetent, then the whole court will see him for what he is.”

He advised that a good judge is one who listens and the ones who get into trouble are the ones who pre-empt things. In contrast, he said, a jury does not have to give reasons for its decisions, but if a jury were to acquit a guilty person it “would be sending a message to the government and the legislature.”

He then by compared the judiciary to the Papacy. “Stalin asked how many battalions did the Pope have? Of course the Pope has no battalions, but he has moral authority'. Likewise, 'the Chief Justice’s ability to enforce the law [was] dependant on the the good will of the Public at Large and nothing else.”

Finishing, Judge Moran reminded us that liberal democracy survived the 20th century by the skin of its teeth and that we should not take any of our hard-won rights for granted.

The floor was then opened for questions.

The first was from an aspiring legal eagle who asked about the idea of fusing the professions of solicitors and barristers.

The second question was a bit less career minded and a bit more probing.

Judicial Watch:
Judge, you spoke a bit about juries. Some courts operate without juries, such as the district court, where the judge decides everything, but in a jury trial in the circuit court, it is the jury who must decide guilt or innocence. In a criminal case the defendant has the right to be assumed innocent until proven guilty. To what degree is it injurious to that right if the Judge were to repeatedly refer to the defendant as criminal before the jury had begun its deliberations? And , seeing as one cannot – no matter how much one believes it – call a judge biased, what remedies exist for this situation?.
Judge Moran:
That behaviour is improper and it’s inconceivable that any judge should do it. The accused persons prior convictions should not be raised.
I’m taking about calling them criminal in relation to the charge before the court.
Judge Moran:
Oh, no that’s inconceivable. If there was a conviction, the court of criminal appeal would eat that judge alive.
Well then, I suppose you were lucky that the case ended in a hung jury because I’ve seen you do that in Kilrush Circuit Court.
Judge Moran:
I doubt that very much.
Yes, you called the defendant a criminal three times before the jury had begun their deliberations. It’s in the transcript if you care to check it.
Judge Moran:
I wouldn’t - I don’t recall that.
You did it three times. I distinctly recall senior counsel jumping to his feet in agitated protest each time you did it.
It was the DPP v Mary Kelly.
Judge Moran:
I believe that case is now under appeal.
Yes, the third trial ended in conviction, but the first trial, where you made those remarks ended in a hung jury. Check the transcripts if you like to read them.

The chair quickly went on to the last question, which was about mandatory sentencing.

Judge Moran left immediately after giving a brief answer and didn’t stick around to mingle with the Law Society members.

We had a list of other questions in relation to judicial conduct, but we knew we had done well to publicly press a judge on just one of them.

author by JWpublication date Wed Apr 27, 2005 19:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

That's the report. Here's our short analysis.
The whole thing was big on irony. This judge was telling "tomorrow's solicitors, barristers and judges" how the system works without talking about it's serious faults or failings.

He left out any mention of judicial accountability, and in fact he never mentioned the defendant when he listed the participants of a court case.

The judge's aversion to jury trials is worrying, and we would be concerned if it was a view shared by the judges of the other 7 circuit courts (Judge Moran is in the South West circuit, covering Kerry, Limerick and Clare)
It's especially worrying that he was passing this view on to law students - people who will never sit on a jury, but who may end up sitting as a judge.

The Judge seems to place little trust in motives or the ability of the juror to decide anything - a jury does not have to give reasons for its decisions, but if a jury were to acquit a guilty person it “would be sending a message to the government and the legislature”
Why does the judge assuming that the jury doesn’t simply think the guilt was not proven?
It is after all, the standard that must be met. A jury must be convinced beyond reasonable doubt. The judge's role is to interpret the law, but the jury decides guilt or innocence.

He admitted to no difference between theory and practice in the Irish courts.
"a good judge is one who listens and the ones who get into trouble are the ones who pre-empt things" the irony was killing me at this point, as this is the same judge who pre-emptively shut down a legal defence in Ennis, before it had been introduced.

His statement that “the Chief Justice’s ability to enforce the law was dependant on the the good will of the Public at Large and nothing else” seemed to deny the existence of an Garda Siochana, or any unease amongst the public for some of the stances taken by judges.

The lack of accountability has led to a culture where a judge will never admit to being wrong, and an accused person must rely on on appeals system if convicted because of improper behaviour. The appeals system may say that the judge erred in judgement, but it will never be admitted that the judge did so deliberately.
At the end of the day, it is almost impossible to remove a judge for improper behaviour.

And finally, it would be beneficial if more members of the public were treated to an education in how the courts work (not just those who study law or hear about talks in universities at short notice).
If school children got to spend one day in the district or circuit court it would be a beneficial education for them.

author by Michaelpublication date Wed Apr 27, 2005 19:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Nice work guys n girls who put the judge on the spot.

It's funny that Carol Moran would identify himself with the discredited old fart who famously locked up the jury when they wouldn't convict William Penn. Jury nullification is exactly one of those hard-won rights we need to protect.

author by JWpublication date Wed Apr 27, 2005 19:39author email judicialwatchireland at yahoo dot co dot ukauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

We have used the pseudonym JW and the name Judicial Watch for this story.

In the US and other countries, there actually is a judicial watch (and a media watch, corpwatch etc) but no such body exists in Ireland. We would like to change that.

We would like for citizens to take a more active role in protecting the standards of democracy and people's rights by helping to monitor cases of judicial malpractice and to push for greater accountabilty and a change to the way that judges are appointed in this country (at the moment it is entirely the gift of the government - a situation which means one cannot trust impartial judgement in a case which directly challenges state policy)

author by indie-socpublication date Wed Apr 27, 2005 21:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well done JW!

No wonder he didn't stick around.

author by Niallpublication date Wed Apr 27, 2005 22:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Fair play to you Judicial Watch for boldly putting judge Carroll Moran rightly on the stand and thinking well on your feet to keep him there.

Great analysis too, clear and accurate reminders us of the injustices in the justice system.

Your report and analysis are an education JW, keep them coming, educate us please.

author by garethpublication date Thu Apr 28, 2005 00:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

great article. pithy and interesting. it's always nice to hear of the pompous getting their comeuppance.

author by Alpublication date Thu Apr 28, 2005 02:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For starters I agree with the jury system, my fear with them is intimidation. It is unfair to place a person in a position where the result they reach could risk themselves and their families.
Secondly, Every person has the right to trial by jury for a criminal act, when a case is decided in a lower court by a judge the defendent has agreed to this as it usually works in their favour.
For every good judge, there is bad, for every harsh judge, a lenient one, for every pro-garda one, an anti-garda one. Thats the way the system works either by design or by practice.
The reason judges are considered untouchable is not for the reasons you seem to believe, it is too ensure that they cannot be intimidated or threatened with losing their jobs for making an unpopular decision.
"Without fear, favour or malice"
Finally, ask Anto or Macca in your local district court if he thinks the system has been unfair during his 90+ convictions. Hes the real expert.

author by youknowwhopublication date Thu Apr 28, 2005 10:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

....well done, now that's what I call an intervention.! Especially on the same day the Garda Union are on the teev whinging about their members having been charged at all for the televised Dame St. bashings 2002.

An ombudsman wouldn't go astray down here. What did the Brits ever do for us...they can keep the aqeducts give us an ombuds(wo)man.

Seems like rights we had are alrady lost, they erode away while we slumber.

author by moo moo moo miaow squeek - "ah cut the effin baby in two"publication date Thu Apr 28, 2005 11:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

the judger's wiggie has brought fear and foolishness to communities throughout the anglosaxon judicial world. In Ireland (republic) the judger's wiggie is one of the few symbols which has remained unchanged.
And throughout all, the judger's wiggie protects the little brain underneath from cooling down, and that (((i))) might just stand for ego.
The vast majority of judgers globally wear special costumes, these range from the star-trek judge judy type capes of the USA to the red silk and doylies worn by Italians. This is to convey the gravity of their task.
Judgers pay for these clothing themselves, they are not provided by the state, and this is something your career guidance advisor ought tell you when you inquire about judgering as a work option. In today's society your career guidance will not use the frank phrase "sorry you come from the wrong class to be a judger" they'll just fob you off with leaflets from a multi-national-corporation who'll suggest paying your fees

Judgering is not precarious, though, but it is considered to be one of the most "incorporated" professions, (and indeed there are no amateur or gentleman or lady player judgers). Judgers live in isolation from most of the people they serve, judge, pardon, sentance, and are only subject to peer review at the first instance. Judgers do not get the sack (pun). Judgers thus slowly leave the real world of mundane worries, quite naturally over time and their ethical ability to make "just decisions" is markedly effected over time.
This might have supported a global imperialist system, the one that developed wiggies for all the guilds from organists to judgers, but in today's society it's non-democratic, and does not serve the interests of an inclusive society.
All to often our critical attention as two of the estates that comprises civil society (media and social assemblies) is directed at the executive rather than the judiciary. Yet the overlap is often non-constitutional (most certainly in the Republic of Ireland).
Of the incorporated professions, we see an unwarrented number of legal professionals in our executive who gravitate to the justice department and are the closest to an auto-defined social peer response group the older judger is likely to get, and yet we do not have a single barrista in the Dail.

author by Deirdre Clancypublication date Thu Apr 28, 2005 14:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Good one, Judicial Watch. It's indeed very educational and interesting.

I agree with the person who says that jury intimidation is an issue, but there are ways to prevent this these days where it is a problem. The issue of witness intimidation is a much more pressing one, as happened in Limerick in recent times.

Everyone has the right to be tried by a jury of their peers. Having sat in front of a jury as a defendant (though the trial later collapsed), I appreciate juries, because it increases the chance of a fair trial to have 12 diverse minds rather than one establishment mind assessing your defense. The judiciary is weighted in favour of the prosecution in many ways (though we're very often told it's the other way around, it generally isn't), and juries are one of the few protections against this.

The jury system is imperfect, but it's better than not having a jury system. There's always a chance, of course, that a jury will be a collection of lunatics, but it's highly unlikely, given the vetting processes that occur and given the fact that there are 12 of them. We hear a lot of the sensational cases where juries came to improbable conclusions, such as the OJ Simpson case, but most cases are not as ideologically charged as this and are more mundane.

author by -publication date Thu Apr 28, 2005 14:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Michael Mcdowell the Irish minister for justice has just taken to the Irish state media provider to comment publically on the case of Fianna Fáil TD, Dr Jim McDaid, (who as a former minister launched a safe driving campaign).
Jim Mcdaid endangered the lives of many by driving his car like he had watched too many matrix movies up the wrong side of bush road in a police chase.

mcdowell, has said that "it was not unprecedented, and that Dr McDaid was not the first politician to find himself in this situation."

Yes indeed, many Irish politicians have been known to drive drunkenly escaping police and security forces down the wrong side of the road. We are famous for it.

Is it too much to ponder, that this public statement to the state media organ made by the Justice Minister will influence the prosecution of a fellow goverment politican, by the police force for whom he has responsibility and in the courts from which he is influence is supposed to be constitutionally limited?

This is rotten.
rotten to the core.
Judgers listen to Ministers on TV, they don't listen to calls for leniancy on a host of other "it has happened oft before" charges.

McDowell, you are a TOAD ribbid ribbid.

author by Jim Bobpublication date Thu Apr 28, 2005 18:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Judge Moran was the judge who decided that the search warrant in the Judge Curtin porno case was out of date...

The trouble with the lack of accountability is that without it, a few bad apples becomes the norm rather than the exception...

The appointment of judges should be done by a body independent of the cabinet, and subject to public scrutiny.

Also, don't be surprised if McDaid says eh cannot get a fair trial cos McDowell has publicly prejudiced it in the media.

Haughey got that result out of Harney..

author by Michaelpublication date Fri Apr 29, 2005 09:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This isn't America. In Ireland you are only entitled to a jury trial if it is an indictable offence, but not one to be heard before a special anti-terrorism or military court.

Rotten as he may be, I think Judge Moran was right about the warrant in the child porno judge case. It had expired. The cops were, in effect, snooping around someone's house and confiscating things without any authorisation to do so.

Cops take liberties like this all the time, and it's not right (just read ANY recent report from Shannon Airport).

And besides, the child porno judge case might be just the thing to prompt some reform of the judiciary in Ireland.

author by Deirdre Clancypublication date Fri Apr 29, 2005 16:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well, there's a difference between legal entitlements and human rights. In my view, a jury trial should be viewed as a human right. I have reservations about the level of evidence (or lack thereof) required in the Special Criminal Court. There has to be a better system than that.

I would tend also to think that the guards were the ones who messed up with regards to the Curtin case. I can understand why and how the mistake occurred, as it was a time-sensitive investigation, but I still think it's hard to see how Moran had a choice to do other than he did in that case.

author by Kieran O'Sullivan - IAWMpublication date Fri Apr 29, 2005 17:11author email kieran.ousllivan at ireland dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Really Grate work!
I would love to have known that that judge was going to speek!

Related Link: http://irishantiwar.org
author by Nadiapublication date Fri Apr 29, 2005 20:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In the rts cases, the case aganist corcoran for one assault was compelling. Corcoran admitted using excessive force aganist one suspect and was clearly idenitified. A case of assault was compelling, and plausible, yet the jury acquited. The sense of disgust and frustration from council for the state, and journalists present, and the sense of unnatural glee among the gardai was palpable.

Fundamentally the users of indymedia must recognise their worldview is in the minority on this isle. Its frustrating and unfortunately needs to be recognised. The contempt for the courts over wrongly verdicts and pronouncements by judges must be recognised that simply put jurors are going to put out verdicts that annoy both sides of the political fence, criticizing the judicary while supporting jury verdicts, while criticizing jury verdicts in another case, implies a suggest that you expect to win every time.

author by Phuq Heddpublication date Sat Apr 30, 2005 00:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Are one of the ways that juries have been using increasingly as a way of taking control of their society and ignoring the inappropriate constraints shoved on them by diverse judicial authorities.

Related Link: http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/zenger/nullification.html
author by Public Servantpublication date Wed May 11, 2005 19:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have seen Carroll Moran in action. Once he exchanged snide remarks with a solicitor about the accused who was a member of the Travelling people. He ridiculed the Traveller, who looked completely humiliated. I could not believe the Traveller's solicitor just stood there and did not intervene. There was the usual mix of humanity present in the court, and you could see the smug looks on many faces. Judge Moran is in a position of power. His arrogance is a sickener.
What I would not have given to turn the clock back and be at that lecture where JW ambushed the toe rag. Brilliant idea. Gives me ideas for other forms of direct action. Well done!!! He deserved this humiliation.

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