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Posted Jan. 18, 2010

O’Donnell LL.M. ’83 Nominated to Supreme Court of Ireland

Donal O'Donnell

Donal O’Donnell, a 1983 graduate of the University of Virginia’s Graduate Studies in Law program, has been nominated to the Supreme Court of Ireland.

O’Donnell will fill the seat left vacant by the appointment of Justice Nicholas Kearns as president of the High Court. It is only the second time in Ireland’s history a practicing attorney has been nominated. In O’Donnell’s current position he has appeared before the Supreme Court several times as an advocate in cases touching on issues from free speech to reproductive rights.

"I still think with great fondness and gratitude of my time in UVA," O'Donnell said. "I think I was the first Irish student in the graduate program, and I can say with confidence that I am the first UVA graduate on the court."

Professor A. E. Dick Howard, a constitutional law expert, taught O’Donnell in his Supreme Court seminar.

“He wrote a stunningly good research paper, in which he compared concepts of equality under the constitutions of Ireland and the United States,” Howard said. “He has one of the most creative and supple minds of any student I have taught, including both foreign and American students. His seminar paper received a well-earned A plus — a grade I rarely give in any course or seminar.”

Howard said he stayed in touch with O’Donnell over the years while he became known for handling constitutional cases before the High Court.

“His success rate in those cases would stir the envy of the best appellate lawyers in Washington,” Howard said. “In his briefs and arguments, Donal is known for his understanding, not only of Irish constitutional law, but also that of other countries, especially the United States. I anticipate that he will bring those insights to opinions of the Irish Supreme Court, thus strengthening the Irish Court's voice in the increasingly lively dialogue among the world's leading constitutional and high courts about constitutional norms.”

"Here at the Law School, we can share in the pleasure of this nomination," Howard said. "That a lawyer of such distinction has taken a degree here is a reminder of our aspirations to make our mark, not only in this country, but in other countries as well.”