Lavery, Cecil Patrick Linton (1894–1967), lawyer and judge, was born 6 October 1894 in Armagh, the second son in a family of five sons of Patrick Lavery, solicitor, and his wife Rose (née Vallely). He was educated at St Patrick's College, Armagh, Castleknock College, Dublin, and UCD, from where he graduated BA. Enrolling at King's Inns in 1912, he won the John Brooke scholarship in his final year, and was called to the bar in Michaelmas term 1915. Immediately after being called he commenced practice on the north-eastern circuit. In 1921–22 he acted as a judge of the dáil circuit court. He proceeded rapidly to acquire a very large practice at the bar and took silk in 1927. He was elected as a bencher of the King's Inns in 1933.
Lavery was elected to the dáil when he stood in a by-election in Dublin County for Fine Gael in June 1935, and was re-elected in 1937, but defeated in the June 1938 general election. On the formation of the first inter-party government in 1948, the taoiseach, John A. Costello (qv), appointed him attorney general. He was also elected to the seanad on the cultural and educational panel in 1948. He remained as attorney general and a senator until he was appointed a member of the supreme court in April 1950. As attorney general he assisted in the drafting of the Convention of Human Rights for the Council of Europe and in advising on the drafting of the Republic of Ireland Bill 1949. At a meeting of United Kingdom and British commonwealth foreign ministers held in Paris, he took part in the negotiation of an agreement defining the relationship between Ireland and the commonwealth.
By the time of his appointment as attorney general he had become widely acknowledged as one of the leaders of the bar. He had a brilliant legal mind, a major capacity to apply and lucidly to explain a legal proposition, a wide knowledge of the law and a swift retentive memory for it. As an advocate he was direct, simple and persuasive: in the 1930s and 1940s he was at the forefront of a group of common law practitioners who abandoned the previously popular oratorical flourish in favour of a simpler and more direct approach to advocacy. Despite his pre-eminent position at the bar and the gift of an extremely swift mind, he was never arrogant or overbearing and was on the best of terms with his fellow practitioners. Appearing before a judge whose mind might not be moving quite as fast as his own, his manners were quite impeccable, but frustration could readily surface as soon as he left court. Part of the folklore of the Law Library was the occasion on which, having appeared before the supreme court in a case in which he was finding it particularly difficult to explain his legal proposition, he came out to the library, placed his papers on the table and, in ringing tones, announced with reference to one of the distinguished members of that court: ‘to put a Law Report in the hands of [A.B.] is like putting a loaded pistol in the hands of a child’.
As a member of the supreme court he was an excellent contributor to its proceedings. He was predictably speedy in grasping a legal point or proposition, and sometimes disconcertingly rapid in clearly, though not aggressively, pointing out its possible flaws. At that time a significant part of the duty of every supreme court judge was to travel on circuit hearing appeals from the circuit court and also assisting the high court by trying with a jury personal injury claims for negligence in various locations outside Dublin. At these tasks Lavery was an exemplary judge, swift without hurrying people, showing no form of prejudice, extremely careful to ensure that the entire proceedings were fair to and understood by both parties and by witnesses. In cases where a jury was involved, his charge to them was clear and evenhanded.
It was generally believed that Lavery was anxious to be appointed from the supreme court to the presidency of the high court when a vacancy occurred. That would almost certainly have been done were it not that a doubt appears to have been raised as to whether such an appointment was properly in accordance with the statute law then applicable. It is probable Lavery would have made an exemplary president of the high court and trial judge at first instance.
He retired from the Supreme Court having reached the retirement age of 72 in October 1966. His contribution to the Irish legal system both as a barrister and as a judge was very large indeed. As both advocate and judge he contributed to the resolution of a large number of cases of great importance, not merely to the parties involved but also as precedents for subsequent litigation. A contribution much more difficult to define, but almost of equal importance, was the manner of man who achieved these things. He was without vanity or pomposity and though aware of his own capacity, never sought by reason of it to dominate others.
He married Lulu Ormsby in 1926 and they had a family of two sons and one daughter. He was a caring family man passing on much to his children of his own interests including his liking for fishing. He and his vivacious wife were generous hosts and lively and entertaining guests. He had for a large part of his life a very strong interest in racing, being for many years a steward of the Turf Club. A close and lengthy friendship with the famous racehorse breeder and trainer Vincent O'Brien was marked by his ownership of two brood mares under O'Brien's care. He was a patron of the Dublin Grand Opera Society and an active fundraiser for the Society for the Blind. Lavery died 17 December 1967 in Dublin. A portrait by Leo Whelan (qv) hangs in King's Inns.