Update from the Courts Service in light of COVID-19 Pandemic as of 15 April 2020

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Update from the Courts Service in light of COVID-19 Pandemic as of 15 April 2020

Published 15 April 2020

In response to the current outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, the Courts Service has introduced a number of measures to scale back the work of the courts. This will result in a huge decrease in the amount of hearings across all court jurisdictions. 

Court Hearings

All matters that were listed for hearing in all jurisdictions on or before 3 April 2020 were adjourned to a new date unless a particular urgency was demonstrated. Any adjournment applications can be dealt with remotely by email to the respective Court Offices/Registrars.

In the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, all case management issues will be dealt with remotely unless it is absolutely necessary that there be a hearing.

The High Court will only sit for the following urgent matters:

  • Applications for Bail
  • Habeas Corpus
  • Injunctions and the enforcement of same
  • Examinerships
  • Urgent Wardship matters
  • Urgent Judicial Review applications

In the Circuit Court, a judge will be available on each Circuit to hear urgent applications. All District Court civil matters are considered non-urgent and will be adjourned to a new date.

In relation to urgent matters that have not been adjourned, only those persons essential to the hearing should attend.  Members of the public who are not participants in proceedings should not travel to court buildings. All parties must respect social distancing and there may be limits to the number of persons who can be in court at any given time.

Remote Hearings

The Courts Service recently trialled a remote hearing system which would allow court hearings to progress remotely via video-link. 

Following a successful trial of the technology, the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Frank Clarke announced last week that he hopes that remote hearings will take place at the start of the new legal term on 20 April 2020. However, Mr. Justice Clarke cautioned that remote hearings will not be suitable for all cases. It is envisaged that the first remote hearings will take place in respect of High Court/Court of Appeal/Supreme Court cases, with a gradual rollout to other jurisdictions. Mr Justice Clarke stated that the president of each Court will determine how the facility will work in his own jurisdiction. Guidance in this regard is expected in due course, as well as further guidance on how the remote hearing system will operate in practice.

High Court Consent Orders

The High Court has published a new Practice Direction which permits consent orders to be made without the parties needing to attend court. Such orders will be made on foot of an email which exhibits the consent of all the parties to the litigation.

Delivery of Judgments

The default position until further notice is that written judgements in all court jurisdictions will be delivered to the parties electronically.  Parties will be invited to communicate electronically with the Court on any issues arising out of the judgement. If there are any issues which are not agreed between the parties, written submissions may be filed electronically with the relevant Court Office.

Statute of Limitations

The statutory time limit to issue proceedings continues to run and Court Offices will be open by appointment to issue proceedings where the statutory time limit to issue will expire before 14 April 2020.

An amendment to the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Bill 2020 was proposed which proposed suspending the reckoning of limitation periods during the period of the COVID-19 crisis.  However, this proposal was not incorporated into the legislation and as such standard time limits and limitation periods continue to apply.

Court Offices

Court Offices from now until 14 April 2020 will be open for essential business by appointment only. Only those with urgent applications for any Court Office, which cannot be dealt with by email or post, will be given an appointment. Persons should not attend any Court Office without an appointment. Court Offices remain operational and can be contacted by email and by post in the normal manner. Contact details for all Court Offices can be found on www.courts.ie.

Court Fees

The stamp Office in Áras Uí Dhálaigh, Four Courts, Dublin 7 is currently closed until 14 April 2020. Court Offices outside Dublin will also not be open to make stamp duty payments. Where fees are payable on proceedings that must be issued urgently, an undertaking in writing to pay fees signed by the Solicitor will be accepted.  Alternatively, the Courts Service has confirmed that all documents for filing will be accepted by Court Offices with payment being made by cheque.

Further updates

The above measures will be reviewed at the end of the current legal term on 12 April 2020, or earlier if needed. A full list of the measures implemented by the Courts Service and all updated announcements can be found on www.courts.ie.

Authors

David Freeman

David Freeman

Dublin

+353 1588 2558

Key Contacts

Rowena McCormack

Rowena McCormack

Dublin

+353 (0)1 231 9628

Julie-Anne Binchy

Julie-Anne Binchy

Dublin

+353 (0) 123 19636

Lisa Broderick

Lisa Broderick

Dublin

+353 (0) 1 231 9683

Charlotte Burke

Charlotte Burke

Dublin

+353 (0)1 2319679

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