Doherty, John (1783–1850), politician and chief justice of the common pleas, was second son of John Doherty, attorney, of Aungier St., Dublin, and his wife Margaret, daughter of David Verner. Educated at Chester School, he entered TCD in 1801, graduating BA (1806) and LLD (1814). He entered the Middle Temple in 1805 and was called to the Irish bar in 1808, beginning his practice on the Leinster circuit. In 1821 he was appointed commissioner of inquiry into courts of justice in Ireland, and was made KC two years later. Entering politics, he was MP for New Ross, Co. Wexford (1824–6), and Kilkenny city (1826–30). Appointed solicitor general in 1827 by the prime minister, George Canning, a second cousin, he was returned for Kilkenny at the subsequent by-election. He was less commanding in the courts than in the commons; his oratorical skills could not compensate for deficiencies in his understanding of the law. He excelled, however, at gaining the support of the jury and at cross-examinations.
In October 1829, as solicitor general, he led the prosecution of those involved in the Doneraile conspiracy in Co. Cork. The arrival of Daniel O'Connell (qv) to defend the accused proved a major embarrassment, however. O'Connell accused him of manufacturing evidence, as well as ignorance of the law, and the presiding judge was forced to issue a public defence of Doherty's probity. This was the start of a lifelong feud between the two men, and Doherty became O'Connell's principal adversary in the commons. O'Connell brought his allegations of misconduct before parliament in 1830, but there Doherty had the advantage and he carefully dismantled the charges, reversing the previous humiliation.
Briefly MP for Newport, Cornwall (July–December 1830), he resigned the seat when appointed lord chief justice of the common pleas for Ireland, and PC, on 28 December 1830. In 1834 Sir Robert Peel (qv) attempted to persuade him to retire from the bench and return to parliament where his oratorical skills were required. However, Doherty preferred promotion to the house of lords, and declined. In 1845 he lost a large fortune in railway speculations, which affected him deeply. He served as one of the judges in the state trials of 1848, but by this time had succumbed to a depression from which he never recovered. He wrote poetry, and although this was never published he was believed to possess a genuine literary ability. His other interests included collecting coins and medals.
He died 8 September 1850 at Beaumaris, Anglesey, north Wales, and was buried in St Kevin's churchyard in Dublin. He resided in Dublin at St Stephen's Green, and outside Dublin at Seamount. He married (1822) Elizabeth Lucy, second daughter of Charles William Wall of Coolnamuck Court, Co. Waterford; they had children.