Appreciation of Judge Susan Ryan on her retirement

The FLA would like to share the following appreciation of Judge Susan Ryan on her retirement

Her Honour Judge Susan Ryan

On Thursday, December 24, 2019 a large and unusually diverse group assembled in a packed Circuit Family court 31 in Phoenix House. Present were all the Registrars who sit in the circuit family courts, all of the family court office staff, porters, representatives from the Legal Aid Board and the Courts service, a number of former and current county registrars, a huge contingent of family lawyers both solicitors and members of the bar together with circuit court judges, including President Patricia Ryan of the Circuit Court and the then recent President of the AJI ( Association of Judges of Ireland) Mr Justice John Edwards. All present were there to pay tribute and say farewell to Her Honour Judge Susan Ryan upon her imminent retirement from the Circuit Court bench.

Her route to the bench involved a BCL degree from UCD followed by qualification as a solicitor in 1979, a number of years with John Rochford and Sons solicitors followed by an 18 year period as a litigation solicitor with Eugene F Collins solicitors. She then embraced, or was embraced by, the public service being appointed as County Registrar for Dublin in August 1999, a position which she held for 14 years, simultaneously acting as a member of the Circuit Court Rules Committee. In July 2013 she was appointed as a Specialist Insolvency Judge of the Circuit Court and this was followed in December 2016 by her appointment to the Circuit Court bench.

Her accumulated experience as a solicitor, County Registrar and insolvency judge equipped her with administrative skills, a thorough knowledge of court rules and procedures and an ability to grasp financial detail and documents. All of this wealth of experience combined with her humanity, common sense, wisdom and appetite for hard work she brought to bear in dealing with family law cases in Phoenix House- for it was there that she chose to spend her entire time on the circuit bench.

And the high regard in which she was held (and let’s call it out- the fondness too!) was so evident by the numbers and the variety of people who attended in court to mark her retirement (an event arranged in secrecy in view of her typically understated and trenchant opposition to any “fuss”). And as for the tributes? Well, the registrars and courts staff spoke of her unfailing courtesy and helpfulness, the legal aid board of her support for initiatives such as mediation and the legal profession paid tribute to her prodigious work record, her legal knowledge and practicality, and her endless patience in dealing with them and with litigants. And in reply she confessed (not for the first time) that her patience was indeed frequently tested, sometimes to the point of desperation, by the family law practitioners. That said, she acknowledged and stressed her admiration for their dogged tenacity in serving the interests of their clients.

She was no stranger to tenacity herself, never stinting of her time or energy in hearing difficult cases requiring considered decisions and carefully crafted orders. She never counted the hours and for a time had a double workload, uncomplainingly, working as an insolvency judge and in the family courts. Moreover she was a collegiate judge serving as secretary of the Association of Judges of Ireland, chairing sessions and speaking at circuit court conferences and contributing to meetings with the family lawyers users group. And she was as generous with her time as she was in sharing her knowledge with her colleagues.

There was courage too, both in her work making complex decisions and orders, and physical courage too so starkly demonstrated in her own court in December 2018. Suffice it to say “cometh the hour….”.

Her decision to retire and the manner of her going was typically understated and took many by surprise but she has made promises to herself and miles and miles to go… Her colleagues will miss her wisdom, her knowledge her companionship and her (sometimes whacky) sense of humour as she heads off to wander in the groves of Academia (in Trinity College) and to spend more time on her much- loved mountain walks and in the company of her family. In all of this we wish her well.