It appears that the Government have decided at long last to increase the jurisdictions of the District and Circuit Courts. The following are the relevant extracts from the Press Release on the Department of Justice website:-
"The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter T.D., today announced the publication of the Courts Bill 2013.
The Bill has two purposes ... The second purpose of the Bill is to increase the monetary jurisdiction limits of the Circuit and District Courts in civil proceedings ...
As regards the jurisdiction limits of the courts, the Bill proposes to change the monetary limits on the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court and District Court in civil proceedings to 75,000 and 15,000 respectively. However, in personal injury actions, the revised monetary jurisdiction limit of the Circuit Court will be 60,000 ...
Making the announcement, the Minister said ... "The proposed changes to the jurisdiction limits of the Circuit and District Courts should ultimately lead to a reduction in the burden of legal costs for individuals and companies involved in litigation. It is crucial that parties involved in legal conflict do not incur more legal costs than are necessary in circumstances in which they have to resort to litigation. It is also important that our court jurisdictions keep substantially in line with inflation and that our higher courts are not unnecessarily overburdened with appeals that could and should be properly dealt with at a lower level. The extension in the jurisdiction of the District Court will result in a portion of litigation presently undertaken in the Circuit Court in the future being dealt with at District Court level. The changes will also result in a proportion of litigation presently being conducted in the High Court in the future being dealt with at Circuit Court level. Over time, this should effect a reduction in the number of appeals that have to be dealt with by our Supreme Court. A further amelioration of the burden presently imposed on the Supreme Court will result from the creation of a Court of Appeal should the proposed referendum it is hoped to hold next Autumn to provide for such court receive public support.
As a further measure to deal with concerns relating to possible inflation of awards and a consequent effect on insurance costs, I am proposing to restrict the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court to 60,000 in respect of personal injury actions."
It should be noted that the current monetary jurisdiction limits for civil matters in the Circuit Court stands at 38,092 and for the District Court at 6,384. The limits have remained unchanged since the coming into force of the Courts Act 1991. In concluding Minister Shatter stated "It is almost 22 years since change was affected to the monetary jurisdiction of our courts. This is far too long. I believe it is in the public interest that jurisdictional issues be revisited more frequently and I am considering what steps might be taken in the context of this Bill to ensure this occurs in the future."
Note for Editors:
Jurisdiction of Circuit Court and District Court
The monetary jurisdiction limits of the Circuit Court and District Court have remained unchanged since 1991. The Courts Act 1991 set the current monetary jurisdiction limits for civil matters at 38,092 (£30,000) for the Circuit Court and 6,384 (£5,000) for the District Court. Although the Courts and Court Officers Act 2002 made statutory provision for increases in the limits to 100,000 and 20,000 respectively, these increased limits were never brought into operation.
The retention of the lower monetary limits has rendered the District and Circuit Courts redundant in respect of some classes of civil proceedings. The low level of jurisdiction in the Circuit Court means that very modest actions must, in the absence of agreement between the parties, be taken in the High Court with consequential higher legal costs arising. Legal costs are a significant component of the overall cost of civil actions.
The Minister is proposing to increase the jurisdiction limits to 75,000 for the Circuit Court and 15,000 for the District Court. However, in personal injury actions, the revised jurisdiction limit of the Circuit Court will be restricted to 60,000. The Ministers proposals will set the jurisdiction limits at levels that are more in keeping with current monetary values while at the same time guarding against undue inflationary pressure on insurance costs.
Jurisdiction of District Court and Circuit Court (Part 3)
Part 3 will change the monetary limits on the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court and District Court in civil proceedings to 75,000 and 15,000 respectively. However, in personal injury actions, the revised monetary jurisdiction limit of the Circuit Court will be 60,000. Sections 11 to 18 of the Bill and the Schedule amend various enactments to provide for this."
From newspaper reports it seems like the Minister would like to get this Bill passed by the end of July.
The main page on the Oireachtas website for the Bill is here
The explanatory memorandum is here
The Courts Bill 2013 text is here
ppcoyle has, predictably enough, started a thread on the proposed in camera amendments (In Health and Social Affairs rather bizarrely). If you want to comment on that aspect then pop on over to crazy town. I only want to discuss the jurisdiction amendments.
I have been hearing rumours for a while about a potential increase of the jurisdiction which I had dismissed because people were claiming it was going to be done overnight and that the CC jurisdiction would be 75,000. The only way it could have been increased overnight was by commencing the 2002 Act provisions which upped the jurisdiction to 100,000, which could not be amended by SI.
It now appears that they were correct after all, if not on the mode of introducing the increases.
On first glance, the increases to the CC jurisdiction seem a bit ridiculous. It would mean we would have three separate limits for CC cases:-
(i) 50,000 for Defamation cases;
(ii) 60,000 for Personal Injuries Cases;
(iii) 75,000 for everything else.
I would rather they picked a figure and increased everything to the same figure. Even if Defamation were increased to the 75,000, it's still insanity to have two monetary jurisdictions. If you want to cap the Personal Injuries jurisdiction for fear of awards inflation (which will undoubtedly happen anyway), cap the entire jurisdiction at that amount.
75,000 is also a ridiculously high figure, particularly given the divergent range of quality that exists in the Circuit Court. The High Court will be buried with appeals.
I would prefer it if the jurisdiction was upped to 50,000, which I think is a less dramatic increase but would still capture a lot of the cases that are currently clogging the High Court lists. I could probably be convinced on 60,000 at a stretch. But not 75,000.
In relation to the DC increasing to 15,000, I also think that this is too high, bearing in mind who will be dealing with the cases.
It seems that they have simply decided to double both jurisdictions. Whilst it is necessary to increase the jurisdictions to clear up the lists and reduce costs, the increases are too high.
Also, as a final thought, do people really think this will decrease costs? If someone is doing a 50,000/60,000 case in the Circuit Court I would have thought they would certainly charge for that accordingly given the risk involved re insurance etc. Also, would it mean Senior Counsel in the Circuit Court?
Anyway, would be interested to hear what other people think.