The President of the High Court, Mr. Justice Peter Kelly signed a practice direction last Wednesday removing all debt cases from the Master of the High Court. As a result, from 4 February 2019 all cases seeking Judgment for in excess of €75,000, will be dealt with by a Judge of the High Court.
The practice direction appears to only apply to new motions issued after 4 February 2019 and it remains to be seen what is to be done with all existing motions currently before the Master.
The practicality of the new practice direction is also unclear. The Master’s list typically deals with around 200 applications for liberty to enter final judgment on a weekly basis and these account for the vast majority of the workload in that list. There are concerns that the influx of matters into the Common Law Motion lists will cause the Monday lists to grind to a halt, especially where they already appear to be at capacity. Approximately 40-50 new motions seeking liberty to enter final judgment are issued a week.
Moreover, adjournments in the Master’s list are typically three to four weeks in duration, this contrasts with the twelve weeks in the Common Law Motions lists on a Monday. This also does not take into account the influx of matters coming from the Master’s list, meaning any delays that practitioners had been facing in progressing matters before the Master could very well be even greater now.
It may well be that a fifth Common Law Motions list will need to be operated on a Monday and another judge assigned to deal with same. Whether that is possible is in doubt where the capacity and resources of High Court Judges are already stretched.
The Master, Edmund Honohan, has come under scrutiny in the last number of years for his strong criticisms of financial institutions and funds that had purchased distressed loans. He recently assisted in the drafting the Affordable Housing and Fair Mortgage Bill, the private members bill introduced by Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness. Even more recently he came to the attention of the national media after he broke a number of windows to improve the airflow in his courtroom.
To view the new practice direction click HERE.