Christian, Jonathan (1808–87), barrister and judge, was born 17 February 1808 in Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary, third son of George Christian, solicitor, and Margaret Christian (née Cormac). He entered TCD in 1824 and graduated BA 1832. In May 1831 he was admitted to Gray's Inn; he was called to the Irish bar in 1834, originally working on the Leinster circuit. He distinguished himself early in his career with the logical keenness of his legal arguments, but disliked criminal and common-law work, devoting himself to the more genteel arena of the chancery courts. Owing to his reputation he was in great demand, but had a tendency to refuse briefs that did not interest him. He became a QC (December 1841), and was appointed law adviser at Dublin Castle (October 1850) but resigned from this post within a matter of months as he felt it was interfering with his bar practice. He was subsequently appointed third serjeant at law (1855) and solicitor general for Ireland (1856–8). His irascibility, always well known, became more obvious after his appointment as a judge of the court of common pleas (February 1858). His criticisms of legal rulings and arguments were invariably delivered in the form of a personal attack. Such exchanges were frequently continued through the letters page of The Times. Despite his unpredictable temper he was appointed lord justice of appeal in chancery (March 1867) and held that position until his retirement. Conservative in politics, he objected to the appointment of Thomas O'Hagan (qv) as lord chancellor (December 1868), dismissing him as a liberal ‘political necessity’. He went to great lengths to point out legal flaws in the land act of 1870, to the great annoyance of the prime minister, W. E. Gladstone. His final public diatribe came in 1877 when he launched an attack on the quality of law reporting, dismissing the contents of the Irish Reports as ‘a mass of utterly worthless rubbish’. He was vilified in the legal press and was the subject of cartoons in Dublin satirical journals. Pleading deafness, he retired in December 1878. The Times devoted a leading editorial to his departure, stating that ‘his error has been that he could not express his dissent from a judgment without inferring general incapacity in the judge who had pronounced it’. He died 29 October 1887 at his Dublin residence, 53 Merrion Square, and was buried in Deansgrange cemetery.
He married (1859) Mary Thomas of Newtown Park Avenue, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, who survived him; they had several children. In his will, approved in Dublin 3 December 1887, he left an estate worth over £70,000. There is a fine portrait by Frank Reynolds in the dining hall of the Honourable Society of King's Inns, Dublin.