The Supreme Court's Registrar says that "no significant backlog" was allowed to develop in the court during 2021, despite the impact of COVID-19 restrictions.
John Mahon's comments came in the court's annual report for 2021, published today (20 December).
Writing in the report, Chief Justice Donal O'Donnell (pictured) said that, while physical hearings resumed in October 2021, the shift towards deploying and embracing technology continued.
"The continued conducting of case-management hearings remotely contributed to the efficient and effective use of court time, and the court's judgments were delivered electronically throughout the legal year," he wrote.
A revised practice direction (SC 19) incorporated these new practices, and also set an indicative timeline of 13 to 16 weeks from the grant of leave to appeal to the hearing of an appeal.
During 2021, the average waiting time from the filing of complete documents linked to an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court's determination on the application was 5.5 weeks.
The average length of time from the grant of leave to appeal, to the listing of an appeal, ranged from 14.5 weeks to 17 weeks in the four quarters of 2021.
In November 2021, the Supreme Court began publishing a short accompanying summary simultaneously with each judgment.
"I hope that these summaries will not only reflect the fact that decisions of the Supreme Court are of public importance, but that they will ensure that judgments of the court are as clear, digestible, and useful for as many people as possible," said the Chief Justice, who was appointed in October 2021.
Impact of restrictions
During 2021, the court determined 145 applications for leave, granting almost one-third of applications.
The number of applications represented an 8% drop compared with 2020, a knock-on effect from the continuing impact of restrictions on the High Court and Court of Appeal.
Leave to appeal was granted in 13 of the 41 'leapfrog' appeals that came directly from the High Court.
The court resolved 77 full appeals – up from 65 in 2020 – and delivered 101 judgments. There were five requests for a preliminary ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union.