Making an Appeal to the Supreme Court
From time to time, a party in proceedings may be dissatisfied with a decision of the Court of Appeal or the High Court. That party may wish to consider whether or not to make an Appeal.
The Supreme Court hears appeals from the Court of Appeals if it is satisfied that the decision involves a matter of general public importance or if it is in the interests of justice.
The Supreme Court can also hear appears from the High Court if the Court is satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances that call for a direct Supreme Court appeal. The matter must be one of general public importance or be in the interests of justice. Leave to appeal must be sought from the Court.
The party may bring an appeal against a decision by way of an application for leave to appeal made to the Supreme Court. It is possible to make such an application online via the Courts Service online CSOL Portal.
The Applicant (the party making the application for leave to appeal) must inform the Respondent (the other party(ies) that they have lodged an application for leave to appeal and the Respondent is then required to file a notice setting out whether it opposes the application for leave to appeal and why.
In practice most Respondents do oppose the application and set out the grounds upon which it says that the Applicant has not reached the constitutional threshold required to make the application.
Once the application and notice are received, a panel of three judges of the Supreme Court will convene to consider whether or not the applicant has met the constitutional threshold to grant the leave to appeal. The panel will also review the written judgment of the Court from which the appeal is being made. The panel generally makes these considerations in private as is specifically provided for in the Court of Appeal Act 2014, although the Court may direct an oral hearing must take place where they consider it appropriate to do so. This only happens occasionally. As it is a constitutional requirement that justice be administered in public, the Supreme Court publish all written determinations and accompanying documentation on the website of the Courts Services of Ireland.
Having considered the application, the notice and the written judgement, the panel will prepare and issue a written determination stating whether or not the leave to appeal has been granted.
If leave is granted, the Applicant will then file a Notice of Intention to Proceed and the Chief Justice will assign the appeal to a Judge of the Supreme Court for the purposes of case management. This is to ensure that procedural requirements are complied with and allow the matter to be progressed in an effective and efficient manner.
Case management is designed to allow the assigned judge to make directions to all parties in relation to the legal documents, exhibits and relevant authorities that the panel will require to have access to in order to adequately determine the matter. The Applicant and Respondent then prepare and lodge written submissions limited to a word count and within a time frame specified by the judge wherein they set out their respective sides and why the decision to allow the appeal should be reserved or appealed. These submissions ordinarily cite previous caselaw and Court decisions in support of their argument.
The appeal is then heard by oral hearing. These hearings are usually heard by 5 Judges. Although the Chief Justice can direct a matter is heard and decided by 3 or even 7 judges. Constitutional matters must be heard by a minimum of 5 judges. The Court sits in odd numbers to allow a decision to be arrived at unanimously or by majority.
At the oral hearing each side is given an allocated period of time in which to make their argument. The Applicant goes first and is followed by the Respondent. At the end of the Respondent’s oral arguments, the Applicant is provided with an opportunity to reply to any arguments that the Respondent may have forwarded. Once the oral hearing has concluded, the Supreme Court ordinarily reserves it’s judgement which means that it will carefully consider and deliberate any arguments made before making its decision. Occasionally, the Court may deliver a judgement immediately which is known as an ex-tempore judgement. This is rare.
The judges hearing and deciding on the matter will then convene in conference. They will arrive at their own respective decisions independently of the other members of the panel. The panel may have several case conferences before a decision is reached. The judges will circle draft judgements for consideration by other members of the Court. The decision reached by each judge is formulated in written judgements, each judge may deliver his or her own separate judgement or indicate agreement with a colleague and a number of concurring judgements made together form a majority. A judge who does not agree with the majority may deliver a descending judgement.
The judgement is delivered by the presiding judge (the most senior judge on the panel) on behalf of all members of the panel.
When the written judgement is delivered, the decision would ordinarily be pronounced in public currently however since the onset of the pandemic the Court now delivers its judgment electronically. The judgements are emailed to the parties on an appointed date and time as notified on the website of the Courts Service. The decision reached by the majority of the Court is given formal effect by way of Order of the Court. Any costs or ancillary applications which are disputed are generally considered on or after the delivery of the written ruling.
In some cases, particularly where complexities of issues or multiple judgments are required, an information note or statement may also be published which summarised the issues which the Court had to consider and the decision which was reached by the majority. The summary is for information purposes only and is not an interpretation of the Court’s decision.
Should you have any queries in relation to medical negligence, please do not hesitate to contact Brendan Dillon or Donna Phelan here at 01 296 0666.