Pennefather, Edward (1773–1847), barrister and judge, was born 22 October 1773 at Darling Hill, Knockevan, Co. Tipperary, second son of Major William Pennefather, MP for Cashel and formerly of the 13th Light Dragoons, and his wife Ellen, eldest daughter of the Ven. Edward Moore of Mooresfort, Co. Tipperary, archdeacon of Emly. Edward's elder brother was Richard Pennefather (qv), baron of the exchequer in Ireland. Educated in Portarlington and Clonmel, he entered TCD on 18 June 1789. Deciding on a legal career, he was enrolled at King's Inns, Dublin, and the Middle Temple, London, in Hilary term 1792. He graduated BA (Dubl.) in the summer of 1794 and was called to the Irish bar in Michaelmas term 1795.
He initially practised in the equity court and, known for his quiet reserve and professionalism, established a reputation as a fine advocate while still only a junior; in 1816 he was made a KC. A conservative in politics, he refused a chairmanship of sessions under the insurrection act in 1823. Elected as a bencher of King's Inns in 1829, he was subsequently elected third serjeant (April 1830) and then second serjeant (January 1831). In February 1832 he was elected first serjeant, and in November graduated MA (Dubl.). He refused the attorney-generalship of Ireland during Lord Melbourne's administration of 1834, and served as solicitor-general of Ireland (January–April 1835) under the brief administration of Sir Robert Peel (qv) in 1835. In September 1841 he was reappointed as solicitor-general on Peel's return to power, and in November 1841 was appointed chief justice of the queen's bench and was sworn of the privy council.
He presided in 1844 at the state trial of Daniel O'Connell (qv), Charles Gavan Duffy (qv), and their associates, when they were tried on charges of conspiracy to effect the repeal of the act of union. At the trial he maintained that, while O'Connell and his associates had not behaved in a secret or treacherous manner, their behaviour still fell within the legal definition of conspiracy. Later criticised for having given the prosecution counsel too much instruction, he found the defendants guilty, but the decision was later overturned in the house of lords. In failing health, he resigned (January 1846) and, after a long illness, died at his Dublin residence in Fitzwilliam Square on 6 September 1847. He was buried in Delgany churchyard, Co. Wicklow.
He married (January 1806) Susan (d. 6 April 1862), eldest daughter of John Darby of Markly, Sussex, and Leap Castle, King's Co; they had four sons and six daughters. The eldest son, Edward Pennefather, JP, DL, became a QC in 1858; the second son, the Rev. William Pennefather, was rector of Callan, Co. Kilkenny; the fourth son, Richard Theodore Pennefather, was auditor-general of Ceylon.