The Courts Service is considering bundling different types of legal work by establishing one regional courthouse as a venue for criminal work, litigation, personal injury, commercial work, family law, and so on.
And chief executive Angela Denning has said that ‘hybrid-type’ hearings – partly remote and partly in courtrooms – will be inevitable in the future.
The Courts Service and its newly-recruited health-and-safety head have drawn up a 92-item action plan for safely returning to full business, with a target date of 22 June.
Numbers standing up
And new High Court data reveals that the volume of plenary summonses issued has stood up, despite the pandemic, at 91% of the 2019 level on the equivalent date.
Court appearances are running at 80% of last year’s equivalent. High Court motions are running at 75% of the figure for this time last year. Judicial review applications are, in fact, up by 10%.
The Law Society had noted its concern about the situation whereby some judges, particularly at District and Circuit Court levels in some parts of the country, began to list certain types of cases for hearing in a manner inconsistent with notices issued when court business was being severely restricted on public health grounds.
This also went against advice issued by the Presidents of the Courts several weeks ago.
A letter from the chief justice to all members of the judiciary has now made clear that individual judges should not expand work significantly, in advance of the current target date of 22 June.
Cork test run
A recent test run of personal-injury hearings in the Circuit Court in Cork cleared the backlog in one day, although four days had been set aside for hearing of assessment-only cases.
No High Court personal-injuries actions are listed for hearing in advance of 22 June.
The Courts Service has also noted a relatively low uptake in the making of consent orders in the High Court by email.
There have also been successful test runs of remote early-morning call-overs of lists, with no one present in the courtroom except for the judge and registrar.
Solicitors are advised to keep a close watch on the Legal Diary as Courts Service resourcing issues may not allow for the individual contacting of parties about cases on the Commercial List and the Examiner’s Court list.
A Courts Service video is also being produced to explain to all court users how business must now be conducted in courts in order to comply with public-health requirements.
There will be a pause for necessary fit-outs and signage to be installed before court sittings resume.