Open Justice and the Rule of Law

The principle of open justice is innately connected to the integrity of the legal system. A fundamental aspect of the system of checks and balances at common law, it has been enshrined as a key institutional feature in democracies which value the independence of the judicial branch. In Ireland, the administration of justice in public is embedded in the Constitution in Article 34.1 and has been vigorously defended by the judiciary since the 1960s. An increased emphasis on the privacy rights of individual litigants has recently prompted the Irish courts to move away from the strict application of the principle, allowing courts to make a variety of orders to protect the privacy of litigants which were previously considered to be contrary to the Constitution's protection of the principle of open justice. This paper explores this recent development and its significance for the administration of justice in a modern democracy.