Ireland’s Court Structure Set to Change – But the People Must Have Their Say First

If you don’t like the outcome of your litigation in Ireland, the final recourse is to the Supreme Court.  It seems that many litigants find themselves in this position, since the Supreme Court receives many appeals and consequently there are long delays of upwards of 4 years occurring before the Supreme Court can hear and decide on appeals.

In an effort to address this position, the Irish Government will hold a Constitutional Referendum later this year with the goal of amending the Constitution to include a new Court of Appeal which will be interposed between the High Court and the Supreme Court.  If the referendum succeeds, the new Court of Appeal is expected to be established in 2014.

Meanwhile, in a further measure to reduce the backlog, the Government recently enacted legislation to allow the panel of eight Supreme Court judges to be enlarged to ten.  High Court judges Ms. Justice Mary Laffoy and Ms. Justice Elizabeth Dunne were nominated as the two new Supreme Court judges.  This is a welcome development which will alleviate the current delays in finally disposing of cases.

On a separate but connected issue, at the present time an appeal from a decision of the Patents Office lies only to the High Court. The Irish Association of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys is proposing that an Appellant should have the choice of appealing against a decision to an “Appointed Person”, who would be an expert in intellectual property matters, in line with practice in the United Kingdom and if this proposal is adopted, this should also help to alleviate the backlog in the Irish courts system and substantially reduce costs for the parties involved.

Dr. Yvonne McKeown

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