New ‘buffer’ appeals court urged

Ireland needs a new court of appeal — positioned between the High Court and Supreme Court — to help alleviate delays in the hearing of appeals from the commercial court, Chief Justice Susan Denham said yesterday.

Speaking at the Institute of Directors’ spring lunch, Chief Justice Denham said the benefits to a commercial case of speedy procedures in the Commercial Court are lost if there is delay in the Supreme Court, where the average time for disposal of a case is 22 weeks.

“Such delays continue despite our Supreme Court being one of the busiest in the world, and despite the court deciding on many multiples of the number of cases compared to final courts of appeal in many larger countries,” she said.

“The delays continue because of the sheer number of automatic appeals to the Supreme Court — with no buffer in place to manage the list.”

Chief Justice Denham said the current situation can put unnecessary emotional and financial pressure on litigants, adding: “In short, delays create confusion and costs and are bad for business. This situation poses serious problems for the Irish legal system and for Irish society as a whole.”

She pointed out that since the 1980s, there has been a very large increase in the volume and complexity of litigation in the High Court and the Supreme Court.

“This has placed the current court structures under considerable pressure. The situation has been alleviated in the High Court by the appointment of additional judges at that level.

“The difficulty with the present system, however, is that appeals in High Court cases may be brought only to the Supreme Court.

“Unlike its common law counterparts throughout the world, Ireland does not have an intermediate appellate court.

“This means that the Supreme Court has to hear all Superior Court appeals.”

Chief Justice Denham said the solution is the creation of a court of appeal which would be the court of final appeal for the vast majority of High Court cases.

“Only in cases of public importance would leave be granted for a further appeal to the Supreme Court. Some cases would leapfrog the Court of Appeal — being cases of exceptional public importance.”

She said Ireland need a court of appeal to uphold the rights of citizens in an efficient manner.

“The Courts Service and the Commercial Court are 21st century success stories in public administration and courts reform.

“There is every reason to be confident that a new court of appeal will follow on this familiar path,” said Chief Justice Denham.


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