Tuesday 12 December 2017

Speed and publicity in High Court's big business section

The Four Courts
The Four Courts
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

THE Commercial Court, the big business division of the High Court, has two key weapons in its armoury - speed and publicity.

The jewel in the crown of the courts system opened its doors in 2004 in response to the boom years which required an efficient mechanism for resolving major commercial disputes if Ireland was to lay any credence to its claim that it is the best little country in which to do business.

The law of unintended consequences meant that the court, designed to grease the wheels of a runaway economy, quickly became a crematorium of sorts in 2007 when the dreams of many of the country's Celtic cubs turned to dust. The Commercial Court started life under the watchful, ruthlessly efficient gaze of High Court judge Mr Justice Peter Kelly, now elevated to the Court of Appeal.

The new system of judicial case management ensured the elimination of many 'trial-by-ambush' tactics deployed by opposing sides in the pre-fast track years. But it also meant that parties seeking a speedy resolution to their disputes had to show their hands from the get-go.

Many a Monday morning at Court 6 in the Four Courts (the Commercial Court has now re-located to the Round Hall of the Four Courts) saw deeply damaging claims being aired in court, a move that saw parties engage in a stampede to resolve their differences in mediation far from the eyes and ears of the public. Commercial Court cases that do proceed to trial also have a tendency to be settled on the day of, or soon after a case has been opened.

This is not least because of the highly public and occasionally prurient nature of examination in chief and cross examination of witnesses.

No matter how confident parties are that the law and facts are 'on their side', testifying in open court can be a bruising experience with the potential to have a long-lasting impact on the reputation of companies and individuals.

It is not for nothing that it is often said that the Commercial Court helps narrow focus, minds - and pockets, deep or otherwise.


Irish Independent

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