The global spread of COVID-19 has resulted in a significant curtailment in the capacity of our courts and other bodies charged with resolving disputes.
Thomas O'Dwyer, Partner in our Litigation department, outlines the measures which have been implemented so far and the implications for clients in their legal proceedings.
At a glance, the key points are:
- Even though the courts have significantly scaled back their capacity to hear cases, urgent matters such as injunctions or other urgent applications will be given a priority.
- All High Court cases of a non-urgent nature have been adjourned indefinitely and will be given a hearing date at a later stage.
- The Statute of Limitations has not been impacted and courts offices remain open to accept the filing of any documents. However, if the court's offices are forced to close, and because of this a document cannot be filed, the clock will stop running until the day that the office is next open.
How will litigation time limits be affected?
While the Courts Service is currently keeping its offices open to facilitate the filing of necessary documents in all proceedings, those arrangements may be subject to change. The Statute of Limitations sets down time limits for the commencement of proceedings and those time limits are not currently affected. However, in the event that the Courts Service closes its offices, there is a pre-existing rule which parties can rely on if a time limit expires during the period of any such closure.
Order 122 rule 3 of the Superior Court Rules provides as follows:
"Where the time for doing any act or taking any proceeding expires on a Saturday, Sunday, or other day on which the offices are closed, and by reason thereof such act or proceeding cannot be done or taken on that day, such act or proceeding shall, so far as regards the time of doing or taking the same, be held to be duly done or taken if done or taken on the day on which the offices shall next be open."
Therefore, if a court office is closed, and because of this a document cannot be filed, the clock will stop running until the day that the office is next open.
The Supreme Court & Court of Appeal
All matters currently listed for hearing up to 3 April can be adjourned on consent by email. In the absence of consent, urgency must be outlined in writing to the relevant Registrar. New matters will be assigned a hearing date at the earliest possible opportunity. To maintain the administration of justice in public, all judgments will be delivered by a single judge and the parties will not be required to attend.
As of 24 March, the Chief Justice and Presidents of each court jurisdiction have agreed that in light of COVID-19 and the need to minimise the exposure of persons using the courts, until further notice all written judgments of the relevant court will be delivered by sending a copy of the judgment electronically to the parties. In addition, a copy will be posted on the Courts Service website. The date and time of delivery will be notified in the Legal Diary. All parties will be invited to communicate electronically with the relevant court on issues arising, such as the precise form of the orders to be made and the question of costs. If issues arise and the parties do not agree, concise written submissions should be filed electronically with the relevant office within 14 day of the delivery. Unless the interests of justice require an oral hearing, any such issues will be dealt with remotely and any ruling that the court is required to make will be published on the Courts Service website, to include a synopsis of the relevant submissions.
The High Court
All Non-Jury, Judicial Review, Chancery, Commercial and Family Law cases are adjourned generally with liberty to re-enter. In our latest communication with the Courts Service, we are advised that a new date will be assigned to affected cases and the parties will be notified of the alternative date, in due course.
For the remainder of the current legal term, ending on 3 April, Judges will be available to deal with urgent matters only, which include applications for Injunctive relief (in addition to consequential enforcement applications) and Judicial Review. Although not specifically addressed in the most recent Court Service Statement, we understand that Judges will be available to deal with urgent Examinership applications and Winding up petitions.
The Circuit Court - Civil Cases and Motions, including Personal Insolvency matters
All Civil lists will be adjourned to a date after 20 April and parties will be advised of the adjourned dates by the relevant Circuit Court offices. Practitioners and parties do not need to attend unless notified by order of the court. A Judge will be available to sit on each Circuit to hear urgent applications. Such urgent applications must be submitted to the relevant Circuit Court Office, in advance.
The District Court
All District Court Civil matters are considered non-urgent and will be adjourned generally with liberty to re-enter either on consent or on notice to the other party. The District Court will continue to hear urgent matters only, which include childcare applications for the extension of care orders, interim care orders and emergency care orders, in addition to exceptional or urgent applications for new interim care orders.
The Workplace Relations Commission
The WRC has postponed all adjudication hearings, conciliation meetings, face to face mediations and on-site inspections from 13 March to 29 March. In the interim, parties can continue to submit complaints for adjudication online.
The Labour Court has suspended all scheduled hearings until 29 March. Appeals and referrals can be submitted online up to the 42nd day following a decision by an Adjudication Officer.
For more information please get in touch with Thomas O'Dwyer (Litigation).
To discuss any other COVID-19 related issues impacting your business, please get in touch with Barry Cahir (Litigation and Insolvency), Thomas O'Dwyer (Litigation), Sharon Delaney (Litigation), Dorit McCann (EU, Competition & Procurement), Damian Maloney (Corporate and Commercial), Aidan Marsh (Commercial Property), Gerry Gallen (Commercial Property), Sandra Masterson Power (Employment), Paul Gough (Employment), Edward Evans (Corporate & Commerical), Fidelma McManus (Housing) or your usual Beauchamps contact.