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There are four main courts in Ireland:

  • the District Court,
  • the Circuit Court,
  • the High Court
  • the Supreme Court

The courts in operation are the Special Criminal Court, the Court of Criminal Appeal the Court of Appeal.

Articles 34 to 37 of Bunreacht na hEireann (the Irish Constitution) deal with the administration of justice in general and outline the structure of the court system. Article 34.1 states that: "Justice shall be administered in courts established by law..." The present courts were set up by the Courts (Establishment and Constitution) Act 1961.

The District Court has jurisdiction over minor civil and criminal matters. You can appeal the outcome of a case heard in the District Court to the Circuit Court.

The Circuit Court has jurisdiction in more serious civil and criminal matters. You can appeal the outcome of a case heard in the Circuit Court to the High Court.

The High Court is presided over by a President of the High Court. It also has jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters. For example, the most serious criminal offences, such as murder, are dealt with by the High Court.

The Court of Criminal Appeal hears appeals from criminal cases heard in the Circuit Court and High Court.

The Supreme Court was created as the final court of appeal and is presided over by the Chief Justice.

Though courts can have jurisdiction over both civil and criminal matters, some courts (such as the Special Criminal Court and the Court of Criminal Appeal) only deal with criminal cases.

The Courts (Establishment and Constitution) Act 1961 also provides for the setting up of special courts where the best interest of justice would not be served in a normal court, for example, the Children's Court and the Drug Court.

The courts are supported by the Offices of the Courts. For example, the Office of the Ward of Court is responsible for the supervision of the affairs of people taken into the wardship of the High Court.

 

THE COURTS


The Irish Courts system is divided between Civil and Criminal Business. In relation to Civil Litigation we have the following Courts.

i. Supreme Court

ii. High Court

iii. Circuit Court

iv. District

 

SUPREME COURT


The Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice, seven other Supreme Court Judges. The Supreme Court hears appeals from The High Court and cases stated on points of law from the Circuit Court. It has an original jurisdiction in certain Constitutional matters.

THE HIGH COURT


The High Court is the Court of unlimited original jurisdiction and hears Appeals from the Circuit Court. It decides points of Law by way of case stated from the District Court. It is made up of a President and 29 Judges. A Commercial Court Section of the High Court was established in 2004 to deal with significant commercial disputes and particular types of business disputes.

THE COMMERCIAL COURT

The Commercial Court is a division of the High Court and was established in 2004 to provide efficient and effective dispute resolution in commercial cases. It is governed by Order 63A of the Rules of the Superior Courts in particular.

The Commercial Court deals with the following type of business disputes:

Disputes of a commercial nature between commercial bodies where the value of the claim is at least €1 million

Proceedings under the Arbitration Act 2010 with a value of at least €1 million

Disputes concerning intellectual property

Appeals from or applications for judicial review of regulatory decisions

Proceedings in connection with any function of the Registrar under the Cape Town Convention or the Aircraft Protocol as defined in the International Interests in Mobile Equipment (Cape Town Convention) Act 2005

Other cases a judge of the Commercial Court considers appropriate

 

There is no automatic right of entry to the Commercial List of the High Court. It is at the discretion of a judge of the Commercial Court.

The Court uses a detailed case management system that is designed to streamline the preparation for trial, remove unnecessary costs and stalling tactics, and ensure full pre-trial disclosure. The judge can adjourn proceedings for up to 28 days to allow resolution of the dispute through some form of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, conciliation or arbitration.

 

THE CIRCUIT COURT

The Circuit court has a monetary damages jurisdiction of up to €38,092.00 in contract and tort claims and a substantial jurisdiction in property disputes and family law. It also hears appeals from the sittings of the District Court.

THE DISTRICT COURT

The District Court has a jurisdiction Contract and Tort claims limited to €6,348.0 and a limited jurisdiction of property disputes, family law and licensing.

The Court and Court Officers Act 2002 increased the financial jurisdiction of the Circuit Court to €100,000.00 and The District Court to €20,000.00. These changes only come into operation once an Order is made by the Minister for Justice.

 

JUDGES SOLICITORS AND BARRISTERS

Judges are appointed by the Irish Government after consultation with the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board.

Irish Solicitors which are regulated by The Law Society of Ireland have a right of audience in all Irish Courts. They usually present cases in the District Court and instruct Barristers in the Circuit, High and Supreme Courts. However they can take cases themselves in these Courts.

Barristers are administered by The Bar Counsel of Ireland and generally deal with Advocacy in the Higher Court. 


COURT PROCEDURES

Preparation of a Circuit Court or a High Court Trial involves three distinct phases.

a. Exchange of written documents (known as Pleadings)
b. Disclosure of Documents (known as Discovery)
c. Trial Date

There is a procedure by Special Summons which can be used in certain cases involving Wills, Trusts and non controversial matters. Proceedings involving the Wards of Court Offices are commenced by way of Petition.

There is also a summary procedure used for Debt Collection.

 

INJUNCTIONS

An Injunction is an Order of the Court directing a party to an Action to do, or to refrain from doing, a particular thing. An Injunction is enforced by committal or contempt of Court in respect of any breach. An Injunction is either

(a) Prohibitory (restrictive/preventive), of a wrongful act or
(b) Mandatory - Directing performance of a positive act. 

As regards injunctions they can be

(a) Interim (restraining the Defendant until some specified time)
(b) Interlocutory, temporary injunction pending trial of the action. 
(c) Perpetual - Permanent Injunction after hearing of the Action.

 

A Mareva Injunction is a particular type of interim injunction granted on an 
ex-parte application i.e. by one party to prevent or restrain some act merely feared or threatened.

 

To obtain an Interlocutory Injunction the Plaintiff must be able to satisfy the Court.

(a) There is a fair question to be determined at the Trial of the Action. 
(b) Damages will not be an adequate remedy for the Plaintiff is he is successful at the trial. 
(c) The balance of convenience favours the granting of the Injunction rather than refusing the Injunction.

 

Any Plaintiff seeking an Injunction will be required to give an Undertaking to Court as to damages by which he will agree to compensate a Defendant who has suffered loss at the consequence of the Injunction if after hearing of the full Action the Court decides the Injunction should not have been given.

 

DISCOVERY

Discovery is the exchange of relevant documents in proceedings. When a party is requested to make voluntary Discovery and refuses a Court will on application generally order a Discovery to be made by way of Affidavit sworn by the parties to list all relevant documents. 

 

TRIALS

Irish Litigation is adversarial which means that it is trial orientated. 

 

ADVERSARIAL

Most Civil Actions are decided by The Sitting Judge except in the cases of Defamation, Assault and Wrongful Imprisonment Actions.


COSTS

Successful Plaintiff or Defendant will normally obtain an Order for Costs against the unsuccessful party. Such Orders are however at the discretion of the Judge. A Costs Order allow for recovery of what are called “party and costs only”. Party and Party Costs may not cover the full costs of a Court Action.

In personal injury and contentious business litigation matters a Solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award of settlement. 

 

ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTIONS (ADR)

Where parties have a valid arbitration clause in an Agreement proceedings will be stayed pending the termination of an Arbitration on application to the Court by any of the parties. Arbitration awards can be appealed to the High Court only on grounds of stated mis-conduct to the Arbitrator or on a question of law. Appeals are therefore rare.

 

MEDIATION AND CONCILIATION

Mediation and Conciliation are increasingly used as mechanisms for Commercial Disputes, Building Disputes, Family Law and Probate.

About us    

We have been providing legal services for over 50 years to expansive range of clients.

We provide a personal service in a convenient location.  Solving problems is not always easy as people and institutions are not always rational.  Therefore, we often have to fight our client's causes when compromise cannot be reached.   We act in cases in the District Court up to the Supreme Court and we have successfully secured millions of euros for our clients. 

Our firm also has vast experience in residential and commercial property law.  We have acted for developers, banks and other institutions in that sale and purchase of thousands of units worth in excess of €1 billion. 

 

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Solicitors are educated and trained to the highest standards through the Law Society’s Professional Practice Course, a blend of practice-oriented taught modules and in-office training with law firms.

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Qualified solicitors are required to further their expertise on an annual basis by attending courses to attain a minimum number of continuing professional development points.

The Society’s committees develop and publish a continuous stream of practice notes on new developments in the various fields of law and aspects of legal practice.

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