Circuit Court (Ireland)

Circuit Court (Ireland)
The courthouse on Washington Street in Cork, home of the Cork Circuit Court

The Circuit Court (Irish: An Chúirt Chuarda) is an intermediate level court of local and limited jurisdiction in the Republic of Ireland which hears both civil and criminal matters. On the criminal side the Circuit Court hears criminal matters tried on indictment with a judge and jury, except for certain serious crimes which are tried in either the High Court of the Special Criminal Court. On the civil side the Circuit Court has a considerable parallel jurisdiction — including equitable remedies — with the High Court but normally cannot award damages of more than €38,092. The Circuit Court also hears de novo appeals from the District Court in both civil and criminal matters.

The Circuit Court consists of a President and thirty-three ordinary judges. It is composed of eight circuits, each of which cover an ad hoc region of the state.

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The Irish constitution permits the creation of courts of "local and limited jurisdiction". The local nature of the Circuit Court exists in the manner in which each circuit of the court only has jurisdiction to consider matters arising within its assigned county or counties. And the limited nature occurs in the manner in which it can only adjudicate over matters which are expressly indicated to be within its jurisdiction by statute.

This having been said a considerable number of powers are conferred on the Circuit Court by statute, which as a result frequently has parallel jurisdiction with the High Court. Probably the most significant difference between the Circuit Court and the High Court is that the Circuit Court has no jurisdiction to question the constitutionality of any statue or even to hear arguments to that effect, a matter which the Irish Constitution reserves solely the High and Supreme courts.

Civil

The civil jurisdiction of the Circuit court is limited to a compensation claim not exceeding €38,092 and for actions involving real property with a rateable value of less than €254, although the parties in an legal action can agree to lifting these limits by agreeing to unlimited jurisdiction. Divorce and judicial separation, and contentious probate cases can also heard provided that the value of any real property in a settlement is within the jurisdiction of the court. Unlike the District Court and in common with the High Court, the Circuit Court has a full equitable jurisdiction.

Civil matters heard in the Circuit Court can be appealed to the High Court.

Criminal

The Court tries all indictable offences (i.e. those triable by a judge and jury) with the exception of certain offences (murder, aggravated murder, treason, rape, piracy and genocide) that are reserved for the Central Criminal Court. Terrorist offences and offences with an organised crime element can be heard by the non-jury Special Criminal Court.

Decisions of the Circuit Court in criminal matters can be appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeal.

Appellate

The Court hears de novo appeals from the District Court. When hearing appeals Circuit Court judges have the same powers as a District Court judge and so cannot give higher sentences or award more damages than a District Court judge could do.

The President of Circuit Court

The office of the President of the Circuit Court was established under the Courts of Justice Act 1947. The current president is his Honour Judge Matthew Deery who was appointed in 2005. His predecessors were:

  • His Honour Judge George William Shannon (1947–1959)
  • His Honour Judge Barra Ó Briain (1959–1973)
  • His Honour Judge John Charles Conroy (1973–1975)
  • His Honour Judge John James Durcan (1975–1977)
  • His Honour Judge Thomas Joseph Neylon (1977–1986)
  • His Honour Judge Thomas Francis Roe (1986–1990)
  • His Honour Judge Peter O'Malley (1990–1991)
  • His Honour Judge Francis Robert Spain (1991–1997)
  • His Honour Judge Diarmuid P Sheridan (1998)
  • His Honour Judge Esmond Smyth (1998–2005)

Circuits

Circuit County
Dublin Circuit Dublin
Cork Circuit Cork
Northern Circuit Leitrim
Donegal
Cavan
Monaghan
Midland Circuit Laois
Roscommon
Longford
Sligo
Offaly
Westmeath
Eastern Circuit Louth
Meath
Wicklow
Kildare
South Western Circuit Limerick
Kerry
Clare
South Eastern Circuit Carlow
Tipperary
Kilkenny
Waterford
Wexford
Western Circuit Galway
Mayo

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