The legal system in Ireland is comprised of four jurisdictions:
- The Supreme Court
- The High Court
- The Circuit Court
- The District Court.
The Supreme Court is principally a court of appeal as it hears appeals from the High Court against judgments and orders.
The High Court can hear virtually all actions, regardless of the amount involved. However, the Circuit Court has jurisdiction up to a value of €38,092.14 so the High Court will normally involve cases exceeding this amount.
It can also hear appeals from the Circuit Court and cases stated from the District Court. This occurs when a District Court judge refers a case on a point of law to the High Court for its determination before deciding a case.
The Circuit Court can deal with actions up to a monetary value of €38,092.14 and there are 8 circuits:
- South eastern
- South western
The Circuit Court has jurisdiction in civil, criminal, and family law matters and can hear appeals from the District Court.
The Circuit Court can also hear equity proceedings eg an action for the dissolution of a partnership, for the administration of an estate of a deceased person, an action for the specific performance of a contract for the sale of land or the partition of an interest in land.
Generally, cases in the Circuit Court are brought in the Circuit Court area where the defendant lives or carries on business.
The District Court can deal with legal actions with a monetary value of €6,348.69.
It cannot hear actions arising from defamation, malicious prosecution or false imprisonment.
District Courts generally deal with
- Debt recovery
- Breach of contract
- Actions in tort
- Family law
- Licensing matters
- Recovery of arrears of rates
- Ejectment proceedings (non-residential)
- Debt collection enforcement applications.
2014 changes to monetary limits
Note: the monetary limits of the Courts were changed in 2014 as follows-
District Court up to €15,000, Circut Court up to €75,000.
The High Court hears cases in excess of €75,000.
Defendant outside the Jurisdiction
Where a defendant is abroad and outside the jurisdiction, it will be essential to establish that the Irish Court has jurisdiction.
Under Common Law Rules re jurisdiction an Irish court has jurisdiction if the defendant is physically served with the proceedings in this jurisdiction or where his solicitor accepts service of proceedings here.
An Irish court will also have jurisdiction where the parties agree.
If it is necessary to serve proceedings on someone outside the jurisdiction, the permission of the court must be obtained first.
The European Union has also sought to standardise the rules of jurisdiction between member states through:
- Council regulation 44/2001 (‘Brussels 1’) which deals with jurisdiction and enforcement and recognition of judgments between member states in civil and commercial matters
- European enforcement orders (regulation (EC) 805/2004)
- Regulation (EC) 1896/2006 which introduced a new procedure for the recovery of cross border debts
- The Lugano Convention
- Council Regulation (EC) 44/2001 which deals with service of documents in civil or commercial matters in EU member states
- The Hague Convention (later superseded by Regulation 1348/2000.