Leading judge expects further increase as Brexit impact is felt
The judge in charge of the commercial division of the High Court says that international legal disputes are becoming an increasing feature of its work.
Mr Justice David Barniville told an online legal conference this was likely to increase as the impact of Brexit is felt.
A number of cases in recent times have involved disputes over billions of euro worth of assets, while one particular case required the court to familiarise itself with laws in various Caribbean and Russian jurisdictions, he said.
The judge made the comments during an online event organised by Ireland For Law, a Government-led initiative to promote Irish law and legal services to the international community.
The initiative is partly aimed at positioning Ireland as a go-to destination for the resolution of international legal disputes amid doubts over the ease with which judgments made in London, long a major international commercial law hub, will be enforced in EU member states.
But Mr Justice Barniville said the Commercial Court was already “increasingly seeing cases with a significant international dimension”.
“That is likely to be even more so as the effects of Brexit become clearer,” he said.
The judge said the court had dealt with a number of cases arising from the collapse of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme. These ended up in the Commercial Court as some of the funds had a custodian or administrator based in Ireland. One such case, expected to last 20 weeks, is due to begin in April.
The judge pointed to the Trafalgar Development Ltd case as an example of “hotly contested and disputed” international litigation being handed by the court.
This case matter relates to a number of Russian entities and a multi-billion euro claim arising from what is alleged to be a corporate raid scheme involving a major industrial ammonia business in Russia.
“That has led to a number of written judgments already and a number of reserved judgments on significant jurisdictional issues and a claim for an anti-enforcement injunction,” the judge said.
“In fact a series of applications were recently heard remotely in this litigation which involved, for the first part, the court learning all about the laws of various Caribbean jurisdictions, including St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands. Another aspect of that case involved the court learning about Russian proceedings in several different Russian jurisdictions.”
Mr Justice Barniville said substantial judicial resources had been devoted to the court and that it had adapted quickly following the onset of the pandemic. “Now we conduct hearings in almost all of our cases on a fully remote basis. That includes witness cases,” he said.
The event was also addressed by Zaki bin Azmi, chief justice of Dubai International Financial Centre Courts (DIFC), an independent English language common law court system dealing with civil and commercial disputes.
A recent review of civil justice here recommended the adoption of DIFC procedures to cut the cost and burden of discovery.