Categories
Litigation

A Minimalist Guide to Civil Proceedings in the District Court

district court proceedings

Are you looking to collect a debt with a value of less than €15,000?

Then you need to commence legal proceedings in the District Court.

Civil proceedings in the District Court, or any Court, can appear confusing to the ordinary person.  The District Court is the Court most people are likely to find themselves in if they are in dispute with someone else.

It might be a debt collection issue, it might be a dispute with neighbours, a personal injuries claim, etc.

It has a jurisdiction up to hear claims up to €15,000.

Let’s take a look at what’s involved.

Commencing civil proceedings

Generally, a civil proceeding must be commenced by the filing for issue and service of a claim notice.

Where are proceedings commenced?

A claim notice must be filed with and issued by the Clerk for the Court area:

(a) in which the respondent or one of the respondents ordinarily resides or carries on any profession, business or occupation,

or at the election of the claimant,

(b) in proceedings founded on contract, (except proceedings arising from an agreement under the Consumer Credit Act 1995 or the European Communities (Consumer Credit Agreements) Regulations 2010 (S.I. 281 of 2010)) in which the contract is alleged to have been made, or

(c) in proceedings founded on tort, in which the tort is alleged to have been committed, or

(d) in ejectment proceedings, in which the lands the subject of the proceedings are situated.

Filing must be effected by filing with the Clerk assigned to the Court area in person or by post.

Generally, a claim notice must be in Form 40.01, Schedule C, or in Form 40.02, Schedule C in a debt claim.

Claim notice

A claim notice must contain a statement of claim.

A statement of claim must—

(a) contain, in a summary form, a statement of all material facts on which the claimant relies, but not evidence by which those facts are to be proved;

(b) contain the necessary particulars of every fact;

(c) if the claim arises by or under any enactment, identify the specific provision of the enactment that is relied on;

(d) state specifically the amount or other relief or remedy sought;

(e) state the place where and the date when the claim arose.

A statement of claim in a debt claim must state that the claim is for debt or liquidated damages, must specify the amount claimed by way of debt or liquidated damages and must include particulars of the claimant’s demand for payment.

A statement of claim must be divided into paragraphs numbered consecutively, and each fact or matter stated, so far as practicable, must be contained in a separate paragraph.

Where the claim is founded on any written document, the statement of claim must state the date of the document and the parties to the document and:

(a) if the claim is for the payment of money, the amount claimed, or

(b) if the claim is for breach of contract, the alleged breach or breaches of the contract.

A statement of claim must contain a list of all correspondence and other documents on which the claimant will rely at the trial including the date if any and a brief description of each document.

Any claim notice in which damages are claimed is assumed to include a claim for interest from the date of judgment, where permitted by law, and for the costs of the civil proceedings, whether or not expressly claimed.

Where a claimant alleges that he or she was unable, at the time at which a claim notice was issued, to include in the claim notice any of the information required by this rule to be specified in the claim notice, he or she must include in the claim notice a statement of the reasons why it is claimed that any such information could not be provided at the time of issue of the claim notice. The claimant must, when the claim notice is served or as soon as may be thereafter (whether by amendment or otherwise) provide such of the information required by this rule as was not included in the claim notice.

A claim notice is valid for service for one year after the day it is filed.

See also Order: 40 of the District Court Rules and statutory instrument 17 of 2014.

Learn more about the claim notice and what to put in it here.

Service of documents

Order 41 deals with service of documents in civil proceedings in the District Court.

This deals with the various modes of service, service on different parties-eg a child, an individual, a partnership, a company-and substituted service, proof of service, and so on.

Order 42 deals with Appearance, Defence, Particulars and Counterclaim.

Appearance and defence

A respondent who intends to defend civil proceedings must give, or send by post, to the claimant or solicitor for the claimant an appearance and defence, in the Form 42.01, Schedule C, not later than 28 days after the service on him or her of the claim notice, and must at the same time file a copy of his or her appearance with the Clerk.

A defence must—

(a)          contain a statement that the respondent intends to defend the claim notice; and

(b)          state the name and address of the respondent and an address for service in the European Union at which documents required to be served on the respondent may be left; and

(c)           if the respondent defends by a solicitor, state the name or firm and business address within the European Union of the solicitor and also, if the solicitor is an agent of another, the name or firm and business address of the principal.

An appearance and defence in a debt claim must be in Form 42.03, Schedule C. A respondent who intends to defend a debt claim must give, or send by post, to the claimant or solicitor for the claimant his or her appearance and defence not later than 28 days after the service on him or her of the claim notice, and must at the same time file a copy of his or her appearance with the Clerk.

A defence in a debt claim must state whether the claim is:

(a)          disputed as to both liability and amount;

(b)          disputed only as to amount and if so, what amount is admitted to be due;

(c)           admitted in full and if so, whether the respondent proposes to pay immediately or requires time for payment.

Unless the respondent requires further particulars of statement of claim, a respondent to a claim other than a debt claim who contests or disputes all or part of a claimant’s claim must serve an appearance and defence in Form 42.01, Schedule C on the claimant at the address for service stated in the claim notice and must file a copy of the appearance with the Clerk.

Order 42 also deals with

  • how a defence is to be drafted and what facts in the statement of claime are admitted, denied, not admitted
  • change of solicitor
  • notice requiring copy documents or further particulars
  • counterclaim
  • stay or dismissal of claim and striking out of statement of claim or defence.

Applications by Notice of Motion

Pre trial applications by Notice of Motion must be made in accordance with the rules set out in Order 44.

Warning

What’s set out above is a general guide only and is not legal advice; contact a solicitor for legal advice.

Categories
Criminal Law

The District Court Criminal Trial Procedure and District Court Appeals

district court ireland

If you find yourself in the District Court as a result of receiving a summons or having been arrested and charged through the charge sheet procedure you will be asked how you plead on your first occasion in Court.

If you plead guilty then that is the end of the matter and the Judge (and it will be a Judge alone in the District Court) will sentence you or adjourn the matter to have community service or probation reports prepared before sentencing.

If however on your first occasion before the Court you plead not guilty then the matter will be adjourned and your solicitor will ask the Judge for a hearing date and to make an order for him/her to be furnished with the evidence that will be used to try to secure your conviction.

This can simply be a précis of the evidence or a Gary Doyle order but whichever order is made your solicitor will be entitled to receive Garda statements, custody records (if any), and videotape evidence(if any).

Your case will also be given a date for trial.

The District Court trial

On the day of the trial your case will be called by the Court clerk and the prosecution solicitor or commonly the prosecuting Garda will give his/her evidence of the alleged offence and the circumstances surrounding it.

If there is a solicitor involved for the State then he/she will carry out a direct examination of all of the state’s witnesses. Your solicitor will then cross examine the state’s witnesses and attempt to raise doubts about their version of events to raise a reasonable doubt in the mind of the Judge.

Your solicitor will then make a submission to the Judge that based on the evidence heard you have no case to answer and ask the Judge to dismiss the case.

At this point if the Judge does indeed decide that you have a case to answer having listened to the State’s case then your solicitor will mount your defence by calling any witnesses that will be useful to your case and carry out a direct examination. These witnesses will then be cross examined by the state’s solicitor.

Once all witnesses have been heard your Solicitor can make a submission to the Judge that the State has failed to discharge it’s burden of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) and argue that the case against you has not been made out.

It is up to the Judge then to decide to convict or dismiss.

If you are convicted then your Solicitor will make a plea in mitigation of sentence on your behalf.

The Judge will ask about previous convictions (if any) and may either impose a sentence on the spot or adjourn sentencing pending the receipt of probation or community service reports or indeed any other type of report he decides.

Plea in mitigation of sentence

The plea in mitigation of sentence is a critical part of the skill of a good solicitor-we will look at it in greater detail in another part of this site as this part of the criminal process is so critically important. (You might be interested in sentencing in criminal law in Ireland).

If you find yourself in Court you should consider very strongly instructing a solicitor on your behalf because a good solicitor will more than justify the cost (if you don’t qualify for free legal aid).

District Court Appeals and Judicial Review

There are many avenues of appeal to decisions in cases in the criminal courts in Ireland. Broadly there are two types of appeal:

1.       An appeal about the decision of the court as to the verdict or the sentence or both,

2.      An appeal to the High Court through the judicial review procedure where you feel your natural or constitutional rights have been infringed or where you feel the court or prosecuting authority has exceeded it’s jurisdiction or has failed to act within the law.

Judicial Review procedures

The remedies which you can seek through the judicial review procedure to the High Court include

1.       An order of prohibition-you might seek this order if you felt that you could not get a fair trial due to adverse prejudicial publicity or because of delay in bringing your case before the courts

2.      An order Certiorari-this is an order which quashes the decision of the court on the grounds that it acted in excess of it’s jurisdiction

3.      An order or mandamus-this orders a body to perform a certain task

4.      An order for damages

5.      An injunction

6.      Quo warranto-this compels a body to demonstrate it’s authority to pursue a certain course of action

7.      Habeas corpus-this applies where the person is alleging that he is being detained without authority, for example in a jail, mental hospital or Garda station. This relief arises out of Article 40.4.2 of the Irish Constitution.

Generally, an application for a judicial review must be made within 3 months or 6 months for certiorari. These time limits run from the time when the grounds for the judicial review first arose.

Appeals from the District Court

An right of appeal arises from the District Court to the Circuit Court and you have 14 days to do so. However you can apply to court for an extension of time within which you can lodge your appeal.

It is important to note that if you are appealing against a driving disqualification and you appeal within 14 days, then the disqualification is suspended pending the outcome of the appeal. If you are late, the disqualification cannot be lifted by the District Court.

You can appeal

1.       The severity of sentence

2.      The severity of sentence and conviction.

You cannot appeal against the conviction alone.

Once you lodge an appeal the sentence handed down by the District Court is suspended pending the outcome of the appeal.(If you have been imprisoned though you will stay in prison until the appeal is filed and recognisances entered into)

Circuit court appeal

Your appeal to the Circuit Court will be heard by a judge and you can submit new evidence and you can change the original plea submitted in the District Court.

If the Circuit Court decides to change your sentence it can only do so within the jurisdiction of the District Court. There is no further right of appeal from the Circuit Court but if the grounds arise you can seek a judicial review in the High Court.

Case stated procedure

You can appeal a decision of the District Court by way of a case stated appeal to the High Court. The purpose of this procedure is to allow you to ask the High Court’s opinion on a point of law or a mixture of law and fact.

However you cannot state a case to the High Court on the basis of the facts alone.

There is also a consultative case stated procedure which must take place before a decision is made in the District Court-this allows a Judge to send a consultative case stated to the High Court before he makes his decision for clarification on a point of law.

Appeal from the Circuit Court

You can appeal a decision of the Circuit Court to the Court of Criminal Appeal and this must be done on the basis of the conduct of the trial in the Circuit Court or on a point of law.

Unlike the District Court appeal avenue, you can appeal a conviction only to the Court of Criminal Appeal.