High Court - Covid-19 Arrangements

High Court - Covid-19 Arrangements

The High Court Central Office is open for urgent business by appointment only – by e-mailing dublincivillaw@courts.ie

Documentation for non urgent business can be filed in accordance with Practice Direction HC90.

Please refer to the most recent Legal Diary and General Notices published for the High Court for the most up to date position.  Please read the note at the top of each list in the Legal Diary which gives information in relation to the current status of that list.

Statement of the President of the High Court 17th July 2020

Statement of the President of the High Court 17th July 2020

‘Briefing on expansion plans for ongoing work of the High Court - Civil Litigation’
A statement from President Irvine

Friday 17 July 2020: In order to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus, on 13th March, 2020, the then President of the High Court made a statement to the effect that the High Court would only sit for limited urgent matters including habeas corpus, extradition, bail applications, injunctions, Wardship and urgent judicial review applications.  In so doing, he announced that no new witness actions would commence before the end of Hilary Term.  Later, on 16th May 2020, he directed that for the remainder of the Easter Term, no new cases or trials should begin, even if they did not involve oral testimony from witnesses. He also gave directions that certain motion lists be adjourned generally with liberty to re-enter.

Current Position

As the Government’s plan to reopen society has progressed, the High Court has been in a position to resume some of the work it had earlier postponed due to Covid-19 considerations. Subject to current Department of Health advice and the restrictions necessary to best protect the safety of court users, the High Court is now in a position to resume work across all divisions including the hearing of proceedings requiring oral testimony.  However, the need to comply with public health guidance and in particular social distancing requirements will mean that the High Court will not, in the near future, enjoy the same resources that it did prior to the onset of Covid-19.  And, to compound matters, such arrears of work as have built up due to Covid-19 must now be cleared.  In response to this unprecedented situation, in addition to the service routinely provided to deal with urgent matters in August, the members of the High Court have agreed to sit in September in order to hear and determine applications and proceedings that were postponed due to Covid-19. Many Courts have already commenced upon the task of clearing backlogs.

Extensive information on each area of work / lists is provided herein, please click on the relevant link to access the specific work area/ list.

1.      Resources
2.      Asylum
3.      Extradition
4.      Chancery
5.      Commercial Court
6.      Ex Parte Common Law Applications
7.      Competition List
8.      Hague Convention List
9.      Insolvency/Bankruptcy/Examiner’s List/Restriction and Disqualification of Directors
10.         Family Law
11.         Non-Jury/ Judicial Review
12.         Personal Injury Proceedings
13.         Probate

 

Thanks

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the High Court, the Court’s registrars and all court staff who have worked so hard throughout this particularly difficult period to keep the courts functioning to the maximum extent possible. I am particularly grateful for the fact that they worked through the Whit Vacation and will work throughout the month of September to minimise the prejudice to litigants resultant upon the Covid-19 pandemic.  And, they will continue to provide emergency support across all divisions throughout the month of August.

I am particularly appreciative of the fact that judges, registrars and court staff have so willingly agreed to take on the significantly increased workload necessary to help ready the buildings for use as part of the wider reopening that is now proceeding.  Finally, my special thanks to the registrars and court staff for their continued assistance in devising systems which will allow for much of the court’s work to be carried out remotely but which will create for them a significantly increased workload.

Mary Irvine
President of the High Court

 

1.Resources

Because of the greatly reduced numbers of persons who may safely be accommodated in courtrooms due to social distancing requirements, only a limited number of available courtrooms are suitable for the hearing of cases requiring oral evidence and multi-party actions will pose a significant challenge. To preserve courtrooms for those cases which can only be dealt with by way of a physical hearing, steps are underway to ensure that all proceedings and applications as may justly be determined without oral evidence will be heard remotely. The onus will be on a party contending that a matter may not justly be determined without oral evidence to so establish.  The success of remote hearings will depend upon the parties adhering to such Practice Directions or other Directions as may be made and to compliance with such requirements as there may be concerning the lodgement of papers and authorities.

A significant benefit of transferring work to remote platforms will be the fact that remote hearings should be “Covid-19 proof” in the event that a second wave of the virus leads to the introduction of new or additional health and safety restrictions.

It is hoped that by the start of October 2020, all High Court courtrooms will be capable of being used for either physical or remote hearings thus maximising their potential usage. Nonetheless, it is likely that from time to time cases listed for hearing either remotely or physically may have to be adjourned due to lack of resources.

As part of this reopening, and in line with Government advice, courtrooms will accommodate very limited numbers of people. This means that access to the courts will in practice tend to be limited to the lawyers in the case, and perhaps one or two litigants, with the occasional court reporter. The level of access will depend on the size of each courtroom and its prescribed maximum occupancy. In the interests of public health, all court users are respectfully requested to adhere to the prescribed maximum occupancy numbers and to comply with any related Practice Direction or other directions as may be given by a presiding judge or their Registrar to ensure that hearings proceed safely as possible.

What follows is a brief outline of the work planned or underway in the busier divisions of the High Court. For information about work in areas other than those mentioned below, please consult the Office of the Principal Registrar, Mr. Pat Treacy.

2.Asylum

The Asylum List is fully operational and is now working entirely remotely save for cases in which one of the parties is not legally represented. 

3.Extradition

The Extradition List is up to date. New cases will be listed on the 18th August and 8th and 29th September 2020.

4.Chancery

Notwithstanding Covid-19 restrictions, all urgent matters such as applications for injunctions and petitions to wind up companies, were heard in accordance with standard practice.  Almost all cases listed for hearing that were adjourned generally and did not involve oral testimony, have since been heard or assigned a date for hearing.

On 30th July 2020, cases previously adjourned generally will be assigned new hearing dates.

On 15th October 2020, new cases which have been certified as ready for hearing will be assigned hearing dates.

On 22nd October 2020, any outstanding matters such as motions, for mentions etc. which were adjourned generally will be assigned dates.

The Chancery 1 Motion list has resumed, and judges will sit throughout September 2020 to clear the backlog of approximately 147 motions.

The Chancery 2 Motion list has also resumed.  Following additional sittings due to take place on 7th and 8th September next, the list will be up to date.

Plans are advancing to ensure that as much work as possible in the Chancery lists is done remotely. At this time, it is not proposed to hear any application or proceedings in which one of the parties does not have legal representation, remotely. However, that is a situation which will remain under review.

Parties are asked to monitor the Courts Service website and the Legal Diary for Practice Directions as may apply to Remote Hearings and the delivery/filing of Written Submissions in Chancery matters.

5.Commercial Court

Notwithstanding Covid-19 restrictions, cases and applications in the Commercial Court continued to be heard. Such cases included judicial reviews (including planning cases with the commercial aspects), public procurement cases, statutory appeals, injunctions, applications under the Companies Acts (including schemes of arrangement), Insurance Acts applications and European Cross-border Merger applications. Almost all of those cases which had to be adjourned due to Covid-19 restrictions have been dealt with in recent weeks.  No case involving oral evidence has been heard in the Commercial Court since 18th March 2020. Such cases were either settled or had to be adjourned. It is hoped that, in accordance with Practice Direction HC 91, those cases which were adjourned for Covid-19 considerations will be heard with effect from September 2020.

There will be at least one judge assigned to the Commercial List each day in August (for urgent matters) and in September 2020. There will be two Commercial motion lists in August (11th and 25th) and five Commercial motion lists in September (1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th) (all Tuesdays and all to be heard remotely). In addition, a number of cases/applications have been listed for hearing in September.

Each Friday at 10.45am there is a callover of all cases/applications listed for hearing the following week. Parties must email the registrar by 4pm on the Wednesday of that week to obtain details of the VMR for the callover.

Hard copy papers for cases/applications listed for hearing in the following week’s Commercial List must be delivered to the List Room of the Central Office by 4:30pm on the previous Wednesday with soft copies emailed to the registrar by the same time. (See Notice in Legal Diary)

The Commercial motion list resumed on Monday 25th May 2020. The moving party must lodge hard copies of the motion papers in the List Room of the Central Office and send soft copies by email to the registrar (copied to the other parties to the motion) by 4:30pm on the preceding Wednesday (see Notice in Legal Diary). The moving party must also email the registrar by 4:40pm on that Wednesday in order that the details of the Virtual Meeting Room (VMR) can be furnished to them. The email must include email contacts for the other parties to the motion. At present, the registrar emails the other parties with the relevant details.

6.Ex Parte Common Law Applications

This list recommenced on 29th June, 2020.  It is no longer possible to move such an application without prior notice.  Practitioners are referred to the Notice in the Legal Diary setting out the new practice.  

7.Competition List

The Competition List is operating in accordance with standard practice.

8.Hague Convention List

In light of the international obligations involved in this list, and the nature of the applications, the list has been managed throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.  Interim and final consent orders have been made and directions have been given remotely in order to ensure progress in the proceedings.  Physical sittings recommenced on 27th May 2020.  A number of matters are almost ready for hearing and it has been determined that these are suitable for remote hearing.  It is expected that any matter that is ready for hearing can be given a date for a remote hearing in early course. 

9.Insolvency/Bankruptcy/Examiner’s List/Restriction and Disqualification of Directors

The Restriction and Disqualification of Directors List has been adjourned until 19th October 2020.  The Insolvency List has been operational since the statement of the President of the High Court of 8th May.  The same position pertains in relation to the Bankruptcy (Examiner’s Office) List.    Plans are being made to ensure that as many of these applications as possible will be heard remotely.

10.Family Law

The Family Law Court has been sitting since 8th May 2020.  On 20th July, 2020, there will be a list to fix dates for September and the Michaelmas Term. 

11.Non-Jury/ Judicial Review

All cases that were adjourned due to Covid-19 restrictions were recently called over with a view to offering parties a hearing date. To reduce the prejudicial effects of Covid-19, judges will sit in September 2020 to hear cases which do not require oral testimony. It is planned that such hearings will be carried out remotely, save where one of the parties is not legally represented.  With effect from October 2020, dates will be fixed for cases where oral testimony will be required. At present there are no plans to hear such cases remotely. However, that situation will be kept under constant review. New IT platforms are being trialled and if successful, may allow such cases to be heard remotely at a future date. Parties are asked to monitor the Courts Service website for Practice Directions as may apply to remote hearings and the delivery/filing of written submissions.

The callover of the Monday Non-Jury list is held at 10:45am when cases are assigned. All papers for such hearings must be lodged no later than 5:00pm on the previous Wednesday. Consent orders and consent adjournments should be notified by email in advance to the Registrar assigned to the Court 6 list. As and from October 2020, it is expected that this list, save for those cases/applications involving a party who is not legally represented, will be heard remotely. 

Papers and supporting documentation for ex parte applications for Judicial Review must be lodged no later than 4:30pm on the Thursday preceding the application.

12.Personal Injury Proceedings

Until 14th July 2020, because of Covid-19 restrictions, the hearing of personal injuries actions had to be suspended. On 14th July the hearing of personal injuries actions resumed in Dublin, albeit with a somewhat reduced daily list (15) due to the reduced availability of Covid-19 compliant courtrooms. A remote callover takes place each morning at 10.15am. Apart from specially fixed cases, which will be assigned on a priority basis, all other cases will be assigned by lottery in the customary way.  Personal injury sittings will also take place this month in Cork Limerick and Kilkenny. All such sittings will be conducted in accordance with current Department of Health guidelines.

Every effort will be made to ensure that cases postponed since 18th March 2020 will be determined as a matter of priority. And, in order to alleviate the consequences of Covid-19 for personal injuries litigants the High Court will sit through September. For further information, see the Notice in respect of the Personal Injuries list - July to September 2020 on the Courts Service website.

All motions postponed by reason of Covid-19 are presently being heard and new motions may be now issued returnable for the Michaelmas and Hilary Terms. Parties and their legal advisers are asked to keep a close eye on the Legal Diary and the Courts Service website as it is anticipated that there are likely to be changes to the manner in which common law motions are currently listed and heard in an effort to future proof them against the consequences of a further Covid-19 surge.

13.Probate

The Probate List will be fully up to date by the end of July 2020.  It is anticipated that all Probate applications will be heard remotely as and from October 2020.